“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you”
The world does not associate happiness with humility, mourning over sin, meekness, righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, or peacemaking. Even less does it associate happiness with persecution.
The Beatitudes begin and end with the promise of the kingdom of heaven. The major promise of the Beatitudes is that in Christ we become kingdom citizens now and forever. No matter what the world does to us, it cannot affect our possession of Christ’s kingdom.
“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution”
(2 Timothy 3:12).
Those who have been persecuted are the citizens of the kingdom, those who live – out the previous seven beatitudes. To the degree that they fulfill the first seven they may experience the eighth. To live for Christ is to live in opposition to Satan in this world and in his system. Christ-likeness in us will produce the same results as Christ-likeness did in the apostles, in the rest of the early church, and in the believers throughout history. Living for Christ will produce the same reaction from the world that Christ Himself produced when He lived on earth as a man.
Righteousness is confrontational, and even when it is not preached in so many words, it confronts wickedness by its very contrast. Persecution is one of the surest evidences of salvation. Persecution is not incidental to faithful Christian living but is certain evidence of it. Paul encouraged the Thessalonians by sending them Timothy, “That no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know”(1 Thessalonians 3: 3, 4)
Suffering persecution is part of the normal Christian life. Persecution for Christ’s sake is a sign of our own salvation just as it is a sign of damnation for those who do the persecution. “And not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God”(Philippians 1:28)
Whether Christians live in a relatively protected and tolerant society or whether they live under a godless, totalitarian regime, the world will find ways to persecute Christ’s church. To live a redeemed life to its fullest is to invite and to expect resentment and reaction from the world.
The fact that many professed believers are popular and praised by the world does not indicate that the world has raised its standards but that many who call themselves by Christ’s name have lowered theirs. As the time for Christ’s appearing grows closer we can expect opposition from the world to increase, not decrease. When Christians are not persecuted in some way by society it means that they are reflecting rather than confronting that society. And when we please the world we can be sure that we grieve the Lord.
“Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4)
A Study from the Beatitudes– by John Denman
Photo by Clifton Franks