Summary: Persecution the acid test of our faith. Persecuted for righteousness not for anything else.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake for they shall be called the children of God - Matt. 5:10 -12
It may seem strange that Jesus passes so quickly from peacemaking in the previous beatitude to persecution—from the work of reconciliation to the experience of hostility. But we come to learn from life's experiences following conversion that, however hard we try to live peacefully or to make peace through reconciliation, some refuse to live at peace with us. Indeed, as this beatitude shows, some take the initiative to oppose, revile, and slander us. We must live with and adjust to the fact that persecution is simply the clash between two value systems. The value system that the world offers and the value system of God. God has called us, selected us, to represent Him in this new value system and patiently enduring persecution as part of our witness and preparation for His Kingdom.
Persecution is as much a mark of discipleship as peacemaking. The world does not give up its hates and self-centered living easily. This brings opposition on disciples of Christ. Righteous people, those whose conduct is right in God's eyes, become targets of the unrighteous (cf. John 15:18-25; Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 4:13-14). Jesus, the perfectly righteous One, suffered more than any other righteous person has suffered. The Old Testament prophets foretold this, calling Him the Suffering Servant of the Lord (cf. Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12).
Formally, Matthew 5:10-12 may contain a ninth Beatitude. Notice that within this passage, there is a change of address. At first, Jesus is speaking in a general third person form: " ...those who have been persecuted … theirs is the kingdom. "But, in Matthew 5:11, Jesus changes to the second person:" Blessed are you when…." This change from third person plural to second person plural shifts the conversation to direct address by the speaker. In other words, Jesus lets his followers know he is not telling them something that will be happening “out there” to some group of future Christians in some generic sense. He is telling them that this persecution will be happening “to you.” Jesus turns the conversation from general realities to specific application for the "you all" who are being addressed. Matthew 5:10-12, then, is the first place in the New Testament which offers an explanation of why followers of Christ will suffer persecution.
When people enter Jesus' kingdom they enter the new value system. They come under the rule of Jesus and, as his disciples, listen to his teaching and put it into practice. Their behaviour is not governed by a set of rules such as the law of Moses, but by the character of Jesus, who wants to reproduce that character in them. The Sermon on the Mount deals with the attitudes, behaviour and responsibilities of those who have come under the lordship of Jesus Christ.
In this particular Beatitude we are looking at the final conclusion on what a truly righteous person is like. It is the most decisive of Beatitudes because it, more than any of the others, will divide those truly living for God and those playing a game. This is the acid test of our Christianity.
You cannot respond in the manner Jesus describes here in verse 12 of being joyful in the midst of persecution unless your life is characterized by righteousness of the heart. This beatitude is not describing a characteristic, but rather the reaction of the world against those that are righteous. It is the poor in spirit, the mournful and the meek that hunger and thirst after righteousness. That hunger and thirsting bring about the characteristics of being merciful, pure in heart and a peacemaker. The striving of such a person is for things eternal which this world cannot understand. These are those that Jesus describes as laying up treasures in heaven rather than on earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal (Matthew 6:20). Those that manage an outward facade of being good will have it melt away when the heat of persecution comes upon them. Their heart will be revealed and it will expose their true goal in life. They will say that God is not fair, He is not good, that He has let them down. They will then turn their backs on the Lord, deny Him, and do what ever is needed to escape the persecution.
Jesus is specific as to the cause of persecution. The important thing Christ emphasized is “for the sake of righteousness,” and "on account of Me" (vv. 10-11). If you are a disciple of Christ this is what is going to happen to you. The believer is persecuted because he is a certain type of person and because he behaves in a certain way.