“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
(Matthew 5:10-12 ESV)
Today we read the last of the eight Beatitudes – characteristics of a true believer in Christ that result in their being blessed. As we’ve learned, each beatitude builds on the ones before it and today’s is the culmination of the previous seven. It is also the most difficult to accept.
This is the only beatitude in which Jesus uses the word blessed twice. Some might conclude that there are, therefore, two beatitudes mentioned here. But notice that there is only one condition and one reward, just like the previous seven. The double use of the word “blessed” is an emphasis on God’s favor that will be shown those who meet the very difficult condition mentioned in this beatitude.
When disciples of Jesus pursue righteousness in our own lives by living according to the first seven beatitudes (with humility, meekness, purity of heart, etc) the world will take one of three actions against us. They will revile us (direct verbal abuse), persecute us (physical harm), and/or utter all kinds of evil against [us] falsely (slander). Godly living brings antagonism from the world.
It’s easy to let these things get to us and prevent us from continuing to live for God. We could easily adopt the world’s customs and in return be liked. But that would be a mistake. When we live to please the world we grieve God [James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17]. Not to mention that suppressing the message of Christ by altering our lifestyle to satisfy those around us does not do others any good. It only keeps them distant from God.
Rather than changing our behavior or getting down about the ill-treatment we receive, we are commanded to rejoice and be glad. This life is only a vapor that lasts for only a short time [James 4:14]. There is no reason, therefore, to let it dictate our attitude. Instead we should be focused on our great reward in heaven. When we live for Christ, including and especially suffering, we are storing up eternal rewards.
Those who mistreat followers of Jesus are really mistreating Jesus Himself [John 15:18]. We need to keep this in mind. They don’t understand the love that God has for them and the blessings He wants to bestow on them. So they take it out on those who represent Him.
Notice that the persecution Jesus is talking about is limited to that which we receive on [His] account. Jesus is only talking about treatment we receive because of our faith [John 1:12]. Someone who is a Christian but is one secretly does not share in this blessing.
The message God has for the world is not easy for any of us to swallow. It brings resentment and mistreatment. But those who believe it and live it can rest assured that God sees what is happening and will bless us for letting our lives be a message to those around us.
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