Volume. XXXVI, No. 11
Sunday, 12 September 2021

Blessed Are The Persecuted

The Beatitudes are God's children's characteristics, and they are the blueprint for truly spiritual blessedness. We come now to the eighth and final beatitude. Jesus gives a strange, blessed beatitude that will surely be the least desired of the others. This least popular beatitude is about blessing that comes to those who are persecuted. This last beatitude is the longest, with three verses, and it comes with a command and an explanation. Jesus said in this the eighth beatitude in Matthew 5:10-12, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." This long beatitude with three verses comes with a command to 'rejoice', and the explanation that follows, only emphasizes the importance of the eight beatitudes. 


To understand the eight beatitudes, we must understand the word 'righteousness.'  In verse 10, the persecution is "on account of righteousness," and in verse 11, it is "on account of Jesus." We will be persecuted because we are living for Jesus and like Jesus.  The righteousness that is ours in Christ stands in sharp contrast to the world's unrighteousness, and hence we will be persecuted because of our relationship to Christ.  If we live a wholehearted, devoted Christian life for Christ and stand on the truth of God's Word regarding all the immoralities we see around us, we will be persecuted. If we cherish sexual purity, our life will be attacked by people's love for free sex or those from the LGBTQ community. When we walk humbly with our God, we will expose the pride and worldly-mindedness of those around us.


Jesus in this long, eighth beatitude gives us two ways we can be persecuted because of Christ in us. First, in vs 10, Jesus says we can be physically persecuted. The Greek word for persecution has the idea of hurting others physically like beating, physical abuse etc. The second way we can expect persecution is by verbal insults which are given in vs 11, “they shall persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” When we shine for Christ as His followers, expect verbal persecution like gossip, lies, false accusations, abusive words, derogatory words, etc. We may never imagine it or see it coming but be ready, for Jesus says because of our identity with Christ, these things will come. 


The eighth beatitude reminds us to live a consistent Christian life. When we have beatitude characteristics, everyone will know that we are Christians. When we are like Christ, we won't have to seek persecution, for it will come to us. Why? As Christians, we will stand up for Christ and what is right and oppose what is wrong. We know what happened when Martin Luther stood for the truth. God used the persecution, led by the Roman Catholic Church, to bring the 16th Century Reformation. We must speak up and stand for the truth. Let us not hide the great and beautiful light under a bushel but let us be like a city on a hill that cannot be hidden.


Let us take comfort in the words of Jesus Christ in verses 11-12, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven:” Jesus' counsel to us when persecution comes is, "Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven." The apostle Paul said similarly in 2 Corinthians 6:10, "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”  The Epistle of James gives a solution to trials in James 1:4: "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations." So, when we undergo persecution, we must rejoice and be glad.


Two reasons are given for our rejoicing, which is linked to the promise. Verse 10 tells us the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to us. And verse 12 tells us that we will receive a great reward in heaven. Jesus knows beyond any shadow of a doubt that our reward in heaven will more than compensate for any suffering we must endure in the service of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The same promise of future blessing is taught in Matthew 19:29: "And everyone that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first." Yes, let us rejoice and be glad during persecution. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;” (2 Cor. 4:17). So, rejoice and be glad, for great is our reward in heaven! Let us look at persecution differently, like the thousands of followers of Jesus. God has a purpose, and it could be for repentance and conversion. As we rejoice greatly in Christ, let us not forget to pray for our brethren who are under extreme persecution in many closed countries.


Is the beatitude on persecution relevant to us today? One global report in a Mission magazine called Christianity the most persecuted religion; "on a worldwide basis, Christians are the most persecuted major religion in terms of direct punishment for practising religious activities–public worship, evangelism, charity." Throughout the ages, Christians who follow Jesus have been  persecuted. The New Testament Church, was a persecuted church. The apostles were persecuted and martyred. Some were beheaded, others stoned, some crucified, and others burned. From then until now, throughout the centuries, we have been persecuted. Some countries have even banned religious gatherings for Christians. In some  countries, the government rewards information about secret worship services, which are then raided to arrest believers. In some countries, it is a crime to convert to Christianity. Many Christians who follow Christ have been arrested, put in jail and tortured. Others have lost their homes, jobs, and businesses. Brethren, our persecution may be vastly different, but the eighth beatitude is a reminder for us to pray for those who are severely persecuted.


Let us also examine ourselves, especially if we are popular or praised by the world. Is it because we are conformed to worldly standards? Are we confronting our sins and taking a stand in line with His Word? When we live for Christ and follow the righteousness of Jesus in His strength and for His glory—there will be two possible responses from people around us. Verse 10 already gave the first response; we will be persecuted. And the second response will be, we will praise our God.  Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” 


Let us shine for Christ come what may, for “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake


Rev Mathews

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