Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Today’s verse is the last of the Beatitudes, which Jesus gave as eight instructions on the rewards for living as citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Verses 11 & 12 explain further the context of persecution: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake…for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” We know of the many saints who sacrificed their lives for the sake of the gospel through the ages, but in our comfortable world today, the thought of being persecuted for our faith rarely cross our minds. In the midst of this COVID pandemic, the worst thing for Christians now is probably the fact that we cannot have worship service in person, which is nothing and not even on the same level compared to what the saints before us went through.
Since most of us do not have to worry about being persecuted, do we still have a stake in the kingdom of heaven? Yes! The first Beatitude, in verse 3 says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven” – anyone who recognizes an absolute need and dependence on God – will be blessed. The problem is, who wants to be destitute and be persecuted in this life when it is already hard enough? We only get the kingdom of heaven when we die, but what can help us live life now?
In these 8 Beatitudes, Jesus is promising us the kingdom of heaven, and he’s also promised us the earth. Sandwiched between vvs.3 & 10 are six promises for righteous living all pertaining to the here and now. Verse 5 says “Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.” This in itself is an instruction to us for every day, and especially for when we come under persecution. To be persecuted for righteousness sake when upholding God’s truth, acting with mercy and carrying out justice, believers are not to act like the world does, but as Jesus taught (Matt 5:6-9). We are to be gentle before men, submissive before God. In doing so, we are rewarded the kingdom of heaven, and hopefully, we bring along others because of our example.
Thoughts for the day
- Think of a situation in which you felt you were under persecution and either didn’t know what to do, or wish you handled it differently. In reading the Beatitudes (Matt 5:3-11) , might you come up with a better response to the situation?
- Is there a current issue, be it locally in your circle of influence, or wider on a national/global scale whereby you recognize persecution taking place that you can do something about?