In the last of the eight BE-ATTITUDES, Jesus tells us in verse 10, ” Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This one sounds tough, doesn’t it? How can we feel blessed while being persecuted and mistreated? The qualifying thought here is “because of righteousness”.
In this Beatitude, Jesus goes on to expound on the thought–look at verse 11 and 12:
Matthew 5:11-12 (TNIV)
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
First off, notice that Jesus says, “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven”. When we hear that, we hear, “Great is my reward after I die”. However, the kingdom of Heaven is right hear, right now, in our midst–when we choose to not only believe, but to follow Jesus and to apply His wisdom in our lives. So, we should be reading, “Great is my reward right now!” knowing that that reward will indeed extend into eternity with the Father.
However hard we try to make peace, when we try to do what is right, and often even when we try to be kind to others, some people will simply refuse to live in peace with us. Look at the flack we get from the business community here in Sanford for feeding the homeless. “Persecution” is simply a clash between two value systems. The values of this world–money, power, self interest–and the values of God–love, compassion, kindness, and selflessness (to name a few).
When someone is angry at me for wanting to do right, for feeding those that are hungry, for being kind to someone they feel doesn’t deserve it, or maybe even for being kind to someone who has wronged me, whatever it is, well, to me it’s a badge of honor! Not one that I wear proudly in the sense of “in their face”, but one that I simply cherish because I know I earned it for doing what God wants me to do.
A friend called me some time ago asking me to pray for him. He’s a salesman of sorts for a college. His bosses want him to sell “their” way (shady, half-truth and focused only on the money). What amazes me is that he is a top recruiter–“his way”– with concern for the people he is in contact with, honest and up front.
I give him that badge of honor, that badge of living in the kingdom. Wouldn’t you?
And what’s the result of this persecution? We come full circle again, “for theirs IS the kingdom of heaven.” Remember the first BE-ATTITUDE: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs IS the kingdom of heaven.”
NOTE that when Jesus tells us that “theirs IS the kingdom of heaven.”, He is speaking in the present tense. This is because believers, followers of Christ, CAN and ALREADY share in the kingdom by living out Jesus’ words.
Luke 17:20-21 ( TNIV )
20 Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” [or “is within you”]
May you cherish your badges of honor for doing what God wants you to do. May you live in the kingdom each and every day!