December 12 – The Beatitudes – “Blessed are those who are persecuted…”

Read Matthew 5:10-12

It is hard to envision blessing in persecution. Where is the win in the verbal assault, personal discrimination, or perhaps even physical harm? The whole idea deserves further exploration.

The reason for the persecution – This is mistreatment because of righteousness. Think of righteousness as right living rooted in right standing. God requires a righteousness which surpassed that of the highly respected Pharisees in His day (Matt 5:20). He demands perfection (Matt 5:48). In that regard, then, not one of us is righteous (Rom 3:10). Jesus alone lived life the way God designed it to be lived—sinless. But through the death and resurrection of Jesus, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). Christ’s right living leads, then, to our right standing and a transformation of our lives whereby we, more and more, live the way He intended.

Since this righteousness comes from Him, it is no surprise, then, that He further describes this persecution in verse 11 as “because of Me.” In other words, people may verbally malign you (or worse) because they hate Jesus and/or the morality they see manifested in your life because of Him. They may lash out because your life is a nagging reminder of what theirs ought to be.

The blessing in the persecution – So where is the blessing in that? First, you can recognize that there is a certain comradery in suffering. You are part of a larger group of Old Testament prophets (Matt 5:12) and New Testament apostles who suffered before you. In fact, the apostles rejoiced “because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:41). You are blessed in persecution as you participate in their experience and as you grow to understand the suffering that Jesus went through (Phil 3:10).

But there is also a future dimension to this blessing. Your reward will be great in heaven (Matt. 5:12). Although persecution may seem undesirable now, there is eternal blessing in it later.

Nowhere does Jesus instruct us to go out looking for persecution. Still, those who unashamedly identify with Him and seek to live an upstanding life in Him will be persecuted . . . and blessed (2 Tim 3:12).

Steve Kern

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