Blessed are those persecuted for the sake of Christ

Sir George Hayter - The Martyrdom of Ridley and Latimer (Image Source: WikiMedia Commons)
Sir George Hayter - The Martyrdom of Ridley and Latimer (Image Source: WikiMedia Commons)

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Mt. 5:10-12.

How do we prepare ourselves to be the kind of person who can suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake?

First, as disciples of Christ we need to expect persecution as a matter of course. What is our Lord doing in these Beatitudes? He is describing the follower of Jesus. The implication of this Beatitude is that his disciples can expect to be persecuted (cf. John 15:18-20). “In this world you shall have tribulation,” said our Lord to his disciples (John 16:33). The apostles told the early churches that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Paul told Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Peter told his audience, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Pet. 4:12).

Second, you become like this by cultivating a pure conscience and purity of heart before the Lord. I think there are several reasons why this Beatitude comes last. It comes last because it not only describes the kind of person who suffers for righteousness, as if this is the inevitable result of being this kind of person, but also because this is the only kind of person who can endure persecution.

Third, you get this way by embracing the promise of future, eternal reward. This is the burden of what our Lord says. The emphasis is on this; it shows just how important this is to grasp. In verse 10, it lies in the words, “Blessed . . . for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In verse 11, you see it in how our Lord switches from the third person to the second person and looks his disciples in the eye and emphatically says, “Blessed are you. . . .” In verse 12, you see it in the words, “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven.”

Moses endured the sufferings with the people of God because “he had respect unto the recompense of reward” (Heb. 11:26). The implication of this text is that if he hadn’t been looking to the future reward, he would not have endured.

May the Lord make us people who are becoming the Beatitudes, who are so rock-solidly satisfied in Jesus that even persecution cannot move us from our devotion to him and our joy in him.

By: Jeremiah Bass