Beatitudes Attitude: Blessed Are The Persecuted


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Since our current sermon series is focused on Jesus' sermon on the mount, we are re-sharing our blog series on the beatitudes.


“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
 – Matthew 5:10


No one wants to be treated poorly, but as Jesus points out in this final beatitudes attitude, those who are persecuted because of righteousness are blessed. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said following him and striving for these beatitudes would lead to persecution.


“Blessed are you when people insult you,
persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven,
for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
– Matthew 5:11-12


In today’s blog, you’ll discover those following Christ should anticipate persecution; however, persecution is not the end. Jesus not only calls those who are persecuted blessed, He tells them “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” He says they should “rejoice and be glad.”

Christianity in Conflict with the World

We must understand Christianity has always and will always conflict with the world. Just read Scripture or open a history book to see conflicts surrounding Christianity. Those who do not follow Jesus have a hard time understanding why His followers live such different lives. Christians are taught to be apart from the world. By choosing to follow Jesus, you will inevitably face conflict. Jesus said it, and it history shows it.


“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.”
– John 15:19


Putting God First Makes Christians Different

Why is there such conflict between Christians and the world? Simply put, Christians choose to put God first. Putting God first shifts attitudes and lifestyles. For example, as we have studied the Beatitudes, it is well established Jesus is more concerned with the heart than the external. Our heart guides our attitudes, behaviors, and lifestyles.


“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”     
- 2 Timothy 3:12

 



In contrast, non-Christ followers do not understand putting God first. Instead, they put themselves first. Many are self-serving and self-seeking. Often, they prioritize money, popularity, and other selfish desires over God. For instance, it is hard for some to understand why a Christian may choose to honor God rather than doing whatever is best for themselves.

Those Who are Persecuted are in Good Company

Even those who do not follow Jesus are familiar with what happened to Him. They know He was persecuted. They know He was treated horribly and suffered greatly because of who He believed in and who He was. Additionally, while He walked on earth, He let his followers know they would be mistreated because of their belief in Him as well.


“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that
has come on you to test you,
as though something strange were happening to you.
But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ,
so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”
-- 1 Peter 4:12-13


His followers will participate in the sufferings of Christ – they will be persecuted. Again, if you doubt this is true, look in the history books. After Christ died on the cross, his disciples went on to share their faith and were persecuted, which you can read about in the Book of Acts. Persecution certainly doesn’t end at the Bible. In history books, we read about martyrs. In fact, it is well documented more people die for their faith today than any other time in history.

Christians are Still Persecuted Today

Moreover, the persecution of Christians is still happening today. This beatitude is still just as relevant today as it was when Jesus spoke it. The problem is Americans are mostly shielded from the types of persecution happening to Christians globally. We take for granted our ability to attend church, to worship, to own a Bible. Many people are unaware there are still places in the world where being a Christian is incredibly risky.

For instance, according to Open Doors USA’s World Watch List, “Christians remain one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world. […] Christians throughout the world continue to risk imprisonment, loss of home and assets, torture, beheadings, rape and even death as a result of their faith.” Places such as Africa, Asia, and the Middle East are increasingly hostile towards Christians. The 2018 World Watch List reports: “3,066 Christians were killed; 1,252 were abducted; 1,020 were raped or sexually harassed; and 793 churches were attacked.”

For those of us sheltered in the USA, it can be hard for us to grasp that level of persecution. However, while the lives of American Christians aren’t being threatened, they should still expect to be persecuted because they are living according to God rather than the world. Persecution includes suffering or ill-treatment because of one’s beliefs including ridicule and exclusion.

For Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

Why would anyone rejoice and be glad when they are persecuted as Jesus suggests? Because if they are being persecuted because of their faith in Him, it means their persecution is not the end. They have eternal hope. The reward of heaven is worth the pain and suffering of this world.


“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 on what is unseen,
since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
-- 2 Corinthians 4:17-18


The Absence of Persecution

It is important to note this beatitude is speaking specifically to those who are persecuted because of righteousness – not those who merely suffer. Also, Christians should be concerned if their lives do not seem to run in conflict to those of the world. As Michael J. Glodo explains, “Absence of persecution may be because we are fitting in too well with the world. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it, it may mean that we have exchanged discipleship for citizenship.”

For further study, buy Be Loyal by Warren Wiersbe

Be sure to join us all through the summer for our current series Summer on the Mount: A Beginner's Guide to Experiencing Heaven on Earth. Part one specifically covered the beatitudes. You can watch it here:

Summer on the Mount: Sermon on the Beatitudes