Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:10-12
The last beatitude reminds us of the first. The end caps are “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. We were first told that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit, and now we are told that the kingdom of heaven is also for those who are persecuted. It gives the sense that all the beatitudes (those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers) are all aspects and characteristics of the citizens of the kingdom of heaven.
Like we hinted at in the last post you would expect someone who had all these wonderful characteristics to be well received (and I think by most they will still be); yet, here Jesus teaches that those who practice righteousness (such as the beatitudes) can expect to find persecution, insults and slander because of it. Were it not for the blessing of pertaining to the kingdom of heaven for righteousness sake we would soon drop all these attitudes and act like the world– just to fit in.
Instead though, we should rejoice greatly and be glad. There is a reward in heaven for your suffering for the sake of righteousness on earth (just make sure the reason you are really suffering is due to righteousness and for Jesus and not due to some error or sin on your part). Christ reminds His disciples that the prophets of old were persecuted in the same way. You will be among good company. Honored company.
Beware the Christian teacher who has no enemies. Beware the pastor that everyone loves and no one speaks evil of. Beware the Christian that is well loved and well spoken of by the world.
It is a tricky balance. We are taught to be at peace with our enemies (Prov. 16:7). One of the qualifiers for the ministry is to have a good testimony among non Christians (1 Ti. 3:7). So I am not saying that everyone, believer and non-believer alike, should hate you. No, following God should and will give you favor with God and man (Pro. 3:4). That said, you should expect to make some enemies. And when you do, don’t be discouraged. You have just proved to yourself and the world that you are a true son or daughter of the kingdom of heaven, and you will be rewarded for it when you are taken there. So don’t get upset when people persecute you, or insult you, or falsely slander you for the sake of Christ. Instead, rejoice. Be happy. Be glad. Be blessed.
Amen!! Very well written. This seems timely to me with all that is going on in Iraq and really, around the world. Thanks for the encouraging word!