Summary: One of the few things Jesus promised us in this life is persecution!
Matt 5.10-12 "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
On June 17, 2004, when Sister Jiang Zongxiu went to the market in Guizhou Province, China, she thought it would be just another day. Along with her mother-in-law, Jiang went through the marketplace, handing out Christian literature and telling people about Jesus. Their actions were soon noticed, and they were arrested. Even when the police took the two women into custody, Jiang did not become discouraged: Arrest and suffering are a regular part of the Christian walk in China. Little did the 34-year-old wife and mother know that the next day she would enter eternity, beaten to death while in the custody of Chinese police.
While we may not suffer the same kind of persecution as our brothers and sisters in Asia and the Muslim world and many other places, Jesus promised us we would be persecuted!
1. PERSECUTION BECAUSE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
What we have consistently seen over the last weeks as we’ve looked at the Beatitudes is that they are so different from the world’s values. They call us to righteousness. They call us to be counter-cultural. They call us to live differently.
And what happens when you’re different? Every kid knows this. When you’re different you get picked on!
Jesus said, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness." We often think about persecution being for our faith, but in the first instance we’ll often be persecuted simply because we are trying to do the right thing.
A friend once recounted how he and his wife were having dinner with a group of people, and the topic somehow got onto marriage. It turned out that nearly everyone at the table, except my friend and another older couple, were in their second marriages following divorce. That’s OK, but this older couple had been married for decades, and the other people started to lay into them with snide comments and innuendo. What’s that about? Persecution because of righteousness!
Maybe you’ve been in the situation where you have to make a tough call in business. If you do the right thing it’s going to disadvantage you. That could be considered a form of passive persecution, I guess.
I once had the opportunity to get a pirated copy of some expensive software that’s popular in photography. You could argue the company wouldn’t miss it if I did because I won’t buy a legal copy, it’s too expensive. But I made the decision not to. That’s not a big thing, but typical of the small decisions that can be counter-cultural for us as we live out God’s Kingdom righteousness.
When you’re in that place, take heart that God sees and blesses.
2. PERSECUTION BECAUSE OF CHRIST
Eph 6 tells us that, "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Eph 6.12).