Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
What is the blessed life in America?
Have you ever experienced insults because of Christ?
The beatitudes are statements declaring where supreme happiness is found. As God is at work in his people, they will realize their spiritual poverty, mourn over sin and brokenness, display meekness, and have a hunger for righteousness. These statements take a turn towards more of the external evidences of this work, in that Kingdom people are full of mercy, evidence purity of heart and are seen as those whose way is marked by peace.
It seems almost abrupt that Jesus goes from peacemaking to persecution - from the work of reconciliation to the experience of hostility. Yet, however hard we may work to try to make peace with some people, they may refuse to live at peace with us. Not all attempts at reconciliation succeed. Some will take the initiative to oppose, revile, and slander us.
What Is Persecution For Righteousness Sake?
It is important to understand what the persecution that is described here is not. This is not persecution due to hypocrisy, judgmentalism, or just obnoxiousness. This is not persecution for your political convictions. This is not referring to persecution for our idiosyncrasies. We have to be careful not to trivialize persecution when we have brothers and sisters that are being imprisoned by oppressive regimes and dying at the hands of extremists.
The suffering that is blessed here is suffering for righteousness sake - doing the will of our Master. It is when we suffer “on my account” (verse 11) - when we suffer because others loath the righteousness which we hunger and thirst for. This persecution comes because they have rejected the Christ we seek and follow.
Persecution is the clash between two irreconcilable value-systems.
The persecution that is blessed according to Jesus is persecution for doing his righteous will. Peter unpacks suffering for righteousness sake (1 Peter 3:8-17). Those who are persecuted for righteousness sake are living out God’s ways in the midst of a world that does not respect His ways but rather reject them. This persecution may come in violent and extreme forms as well as subtler ones such as ridicule, dismissiveness, marginalization, and exclusion.
How Are We to Respond To Persecution?
Verse 12 lays out an outline for our perspective.
- We are to rejoice and be glad. We are not to retaliate, sulk, wallow in self-pity, just grin and bear it, or pretend that we enjoy it like a masochist.
- We rejoice because our reward is great in God’s Kingdom.
- We rejoice because it is a mark of genuine Christian authenticity and we join the ranks of the apostles (Acts 5), the early church leaders, and thousands upon thousands over the years right through to today.
Notice that this is a double beatitude. Jesus first stated it in third person like the other seven. Then He repeated it in the direct speech of the second person. All the beatitudes describe what every Christian community ought to be. Therefore we conclude that being despised, rejected, slandered, and persecuted is as much of a normal mark of every community of faith as is being meek or merciful. The regular evidence of peacemaking among us will inevitably lead to opposition, as we follow Jesus. He was a rejected and persecuted peacemaker and we will be, too.
A Summary Of Kingdom People
The beatitudes paint a comprehensive portrait of what a Kingdom people look like, but also particularly, the individual journey of a disciple of Jesus.
- We see him on his knees before God, acknowledging his spiritual poverty and mourning over it.
- This makes him meek and gentle in all of his relationships.
- He has received mercy, therefore he gives mercy.
- He is far from just accepting his sin for he hungers and thirsts after righteousness, longing to grow in grace and goodness.
- We see him with others out in the community - his relationship with God does not cause him to withdraw from society and he is not insulated from the world's pain.
- He is in the thick of the brokenness of the world - showing mercy to those battered by suffering and sin.
- He is sincere in his dealings with others and seeks to play a constructive role as a peacemaker.
- Yet he is not thanked for his efforts, but rather opposed, slandered, and persecuted on account of the righteousness for which he stands and the Christ with whom he identifies with.
This is the man or woman that is blessed - who has the approval of God - who function as they have been called to function. This script of Scripture must be laid alongside the stuff of life.
As Kingdom People, let’s be faithful disciples of Jesus!
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing to discuss the implications of the message.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
An Examined Life
As we continue to reflect on the sermon, allow these questions to guide your discussion with others concerning the conviction points and what you sensed God’s Spirit was doing in you through the preached Word. Jot notes to help you remember.
What was God doing in you through the message on Sunday?
Describe how you’ve grown in your understanding of the Gospel (good news of Jesus)?
How are you going to respond to God’s Word in your life?