Summary: If one is going to live according to the principles & promises laid out here by our Lord in the beatitudes, he will suffer rejection from the world. Yet, through it all, he can be doubly blessed.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus describes the qualities found in the lives of those who are truly happy. Not in the temporary, circumstantial sense which the world talks about, but in the eternal, ultimate sense which the world knows nothing about.
He tells us that true happiness comes when one gains the proper perspective on salvation, sin, self, spirituality, service, sanctification and society. He tells us that one who is truly happy has recognized his spiritual poverty, the seriousness of sin, and the emptiness of self. He desires to be right with God and to do right for God, and therefore, seeks to demonstrate mercy toward others and to lead others to peace with God, as he seeks to walk in purity before God.
All of these virtues, of course, are intolerable to an evil world. The world cannot handle someone who is poor in spirit because the world lives in pride - in a state of self-promotion & self-absorption. The world doesn’t want to mourn over sin, but justify its sin. The world wants nothing to do with purity, righteousness, mercy or peace.
Therefore, the world will always lash out at those who would live as Jesus has described here in the beatitudes. Which brings us to the conclusion of our Lord’s teachings here and the final Beatitude.
Notice how Jesus says that the one who suffers as He describes here is doubly blessed. This is the only Beatitude where Jesus uses the word “blessed” twice.
But in order for us to be doubly blessed in the midst of suffering persecution, we must gain the proper perspective on it. Notice what Jesus tells us here. He tells us that if we suffer persecution . . .
1. Let it be for the right reason - vs. 10-11
Jesus speaks here about being persecuted because of righteousness (v. 10) and because of Him (v. 11). Indeed, if we would live for Christ, we will suffer persecution.
“Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” - 2 Timothy 3:12 (NIV)
But it is also possible to suffer persecution for others reasons that are not so noble.
“If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” - 1 Peter 4:15-16 (NIV)
There is an interesting contrast between believers today and believers in the time of the early church. Today, we take on the title of “Christian” once we trust Christ as our Savior and begin to follow Him. If we commit ourselves to growing more like Christ, we then take on the title of “Disciple.”
Now the word “Disciple” means, “follower.” With respect to Jesus then, a Disciple is one who has chosen to follow Him. The word “Christian” means, “little Christ.” This is most interesting.
While believers today take on the title “Christian,” believers in the early church preferred to call themselves “Disciples.” They never referred to themselves as “Christians.” That was, instead, a name given to them by those outside the church who observed the lives of the “Disciples,” these followers of Christ, when they recognized their Christ-like way of living.
“The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” - Acts 11:26 (NIV)
It was only as the Disciples had grow in their walk with Christ to the point where others began to recognize their Christ-like ways that they were called “Christian.” They didn’t take this title on themselves, but it was a title given them by those OUTSIDE the church who recognized that they were living like “little Christs.”
This helps us better understand what Peter is saying then in 1 Peter 4:15-16, when he speaks of suffering “as a Christian.” To be persecuted as a “Christian” is to be persecuted for being like Christ!
Oh that outsiders might recognize Christ-likeness in us today as they did in the lives of the Disciples in the days of the early church!
What this means then is that I can choose to avoid persecution if I desire, but simply refusing to grow in Christ-likeness. But refusing to mourn over sin, to walk in meekness, to seek after righteousness, to pursue purity, to demonstrate mercy to others, or seek lead others to have peace with God, I can avoid persecution.
In other words, I can avoid persecution for my faith by choosing to compromise my commitment to following Christ. Some of you today are making that very choice.
“Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.” - Luke 6:26 (NIV)
“There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests—look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.” - Luke 6:26