The Beatitudes: 8. Persecution

The Beatitudes: 8. Persecution

The Beatitudes: 8. Persecution.

Please read Matthew 5:3-12.

“Blessed are they who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:10).

Congratulations! Be glad! You are in good company when you are treated badly for doing good. You are in a select group when you are mistreated for doing what is right. Rejoice, because the first club meeting of the Fellowship of Suffering will be around the throne in the kingdom of heaven! Celebrate! You are to be envied for your good fortune!

Have you ever been invited to join a select group, a special club? There is a common identity shared, and there is usually a mutual understanding in the group because of the common experiences. There is a select group mentioned in Scripture, Philippians 3:10, called the Fellowship of Suffering. This distinctive group is not formed to prove who is special and who isn’t. Those involved in this group are not much of an in-crowd. Usually it is just the opposite. They are simply people of all ages who are “like Him,” people who are treated badly for doing the right thing in Jesus’ Name. If you have been wrongly mistreated for being good, for being an  obedient Christian, then you are a charter member of this Fellowship.

There are varying degrees of persecution: from losing your life or livelihood, to losing friends, to physical hardship, to losing one’s reputation or credibility, to being ridiculed, mocked or scorned. Much of that is determined by geography, where you live, which government is in control, which neighborhood you live in, which club you belong to, which school or church you attend, which family you were raised in, or what the color of your skin is. Persecution can take many forms, some are dramatic and some are not. But all can be painful:

  • Your boss may not promote you if you don’t overcharge a customer;
  • Your peers may ridicule you if you don’t cheat on your income taxes;
  • Your enemy may take your life if you don’t reject your faith;
  • You may lose your church building if you promote Biblical values;
  • You might get the silent treatment if you help to integrate your church;
  • You may lose your friends if you don’t join them in shoplifting;
  • Your family may disown you if you decide to follow Jesus;
  • Your colleagues may scorn you if you don’t call in sick to go to a ball game;
  • Your fellow students may ridicule you if you don’t lie about your homework;
  • Your friends may gossip about you if you want to remain a virgin;
  • You may be insulted if you read your Bible;
  • Your peers may mock you if you don’t want to join them in online porn;
  • Your colleagues may misunderstand you if you don’t want to gossip;
  • Your boss may not give you a raise if you reject a shady, dishonest deal;
  • You may lose your home if you face violent resistance to your faith;
  • Family members may put you down if you don’t want to lie to get out of a commitment;
  • Your peers may not invite you to parties if you dress modestly;
  • You may get beaten up if you refuse to join in bullying someone;
  • You may get thrown in jail for advocating for God’s justice.

Why have so many people down through history mistreated the messenger simply because of the message? Why must the righteous suffer for doing the right thing? Maybe being in close proximity to goodness makes them feel guilty. Maybe it makes them feel uncomfortable because it reminds them of what they should be doing. Maybe they don’t like the idea of obeying the rules for good behavior. Maybe the truth of goodness gets too close for comfort. Maybe the strength of an uncompromising faith reminds them of how weak they are. Maybe they feel humiliated to be caught doing something wrong. Whatever the reason is, walking the narrow path often brings uninvited mistreatment.

The final paragraph of the Beatitudes in verses 11-12 basically expands on this last Beatitude, and needs to be repeated. Remember that the President of the Fellowship is saying these words. He speaks from personal experience…

“God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.”

Scriptures for the Fellowship:

“If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of power, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, a criminal, or even as a mischief maker. Yet if any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear his name.” (I Peter 4:14-16).

“Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.” (Luke 6:22-23).

“Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (I Peter 4:13).

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:18-20).

“The Sanhedrin called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (Acts 5:40-41).

“So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (I Peter 4:19).

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (II Corinthians 4:17-18).

“Some faced jeers and flogging, while others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawn in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated – the world was not worthy of them.” (Hebrews 11:36-38).

“It seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to people. We are fools for Christ…” (I Corinthians 4:9-10).

“Even if you should suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear what they fear; do not be intimidated.’ But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.” (I Peter 3:14-15).

“As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”  (James 5:12-14).

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39).