Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 5:10]
So we’ve come to the end of this series of posts on the beatitudes. Thanks for sticking it out with me and sorry for the delay on posting this one, I had a scheduling conflict and couldn’t sit down to write at my usual time.
As I’ve noted earlier, Jesus opens his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount by parodying a familiar psalm. In psalm one David tells the Israelites that in order to have a good life and serve God all they need to do is separate themselves from the bad people so they won’t be tempted, hunker down in their little isolated communities and follow the law.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers. [Psalm 1:3]
But Jesus clearly says no to that idea. The first three beatitudes are about releasing the kinds of things that hold us back from truly embracing God. You can’t embrace God if your hands are full of possession and things that bring you pleasure and power. Once you’ve released those things you can turn and embrace God’s righteousness and once you have that you will begin to view the world differently and live out of a sense of Mercy, Purity and Peace.
And what do you get for your efforts? Persecuted. But not just persecuted, persecuted because of righteousness.
The world hates righteous people! Whatever the reason, simple misunderstanding, fear of exposing our dark side or outright hostility, righteousness is the enemy of the masses. And the masses hate it. Nobody understood that better than Jesus.
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. [Luke 9:23-24]
If you want to follow Jesus you’re going to suffer, it’s that simple. So before you commit to this life you really to ask yourself a few key questions: Do you count the cost of following Jesus or avoid suffering at all costs? Do you want to be close to Jesus, even in his suffering? Do you regularly make decisions to obey Jesus that cost? Do you want to be like Jesus?
God wants us to pursue a life that goes beyond our own comfort and self-preservation (be willing to die for the greatest of all missions), and in doing so, discover a life that never ends (eternal kingdom of God).
So what’s your attitude toward persecution?