Summary: This is the last sermon in our beatitudes section of our Sermon on the Mount Series. It deals with how we handle persecution and harassment, by recognizing the source, responding positively, refusing to retaliate, rejoicing as we remember the reward.
Sermon on the Mount
“Harassment: The Blessing No One Wants”
Tonight we’re finishing the beatitudes section in our Sermon on the Mount series. The message we’ll be looking at is how we are to handle being harassed or persecuted for our faith. It’s entitled, “Harassment: The Blessing No One Wants.”
One of the major causes of unhappiness is trying to be like everybody else. There’s a myth that says, “In order to be happy we must be approved by others.” But that doesn’t work because you can’t please everyone.
Jesus was a realist, that is, He was brutally honest, especially about what it took to be disciples. He said those who wanted to follow Him were to take up their cross and follow Him daily. They were to die to everything the world says is important in order to be called a child of God.
In our passage Jesus says that if we follow Him, people aren’t going to like us much. He said, “Guess what; if they hated me, they’re going to hate you too.” And when we start to live by the beatitudes we’ve been studying, then we can expect harassment as a result, which is exactly what He said in this last beatitude.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10 NKJV)
And here’s the kicker, just so we don’t miss what He said, He repeats it twice and the second time with greater emphasis.
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12 NKJV)
Jesus gives more space to this last beatitude than any of the others. While each is vital, this last one Jesus not only goes a little more in detail, but He personalizes it as well by using the personal pronoun, “you.”
In each of the previous beatitudes Jesus deals with the Christian character, but not in this last one. In this last one He sums up the character of the world and how it feels about those who are Jesus’s followers, those who follow the first seven beatitudes.
Basically Jesus is saying, “Happy are those who handle rejection and harassment. Blessed are those whose beliefs are so strong they can withstand the enemy’s attacks as a result of their beliefs.”
Tonight I’d like to look at our response to harassment. But before I do, I’d like us to notice that this is not some fairy tale, but a reality. It isn’t “if” but “when.” “When they revile and persecute you.” So we need to be prepared for this inevitability.
The world is getting more and more hostile to Christians, the Christian faith and belief. Tolerance is no longer a two way street in our country or around the world. Instead Christians are treated with scorn and hostility.
The reason is found when Jesus said it would happen for His sake.
Before I continue, there’s something that needs to be understood and stated. Some people truly are martyrs for their faith, while others are martyrs because they bring it on themselves through their own actions, not because they are believers. They’re irritating, stubborn, and obnoxious. They are those who are self-righteous about their faith. And so when they complain about being persecuted, understand they’re not being persecuted for their faith, but rather because they’re jerks.
Jesus gives us the reason for our persecution.
“A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20 NKJV)
The reason for our being harassed and persecuted is because it’s our being like Jesus. The media is merciless when it comes to putting down and attacking Christians at every opportunity, while saying little if anything about the atrocities done by other religions, especially against Christians. But this really shouldn’t surprise us.
The world crucified Jesus, and the world would still crucify Him today. The world doesn’t like Jesus, therefore the world won’t like us, especially when we shine Jesus through our lives and speak of His love, grace, mercy, and coming Judgment.
Darkness can’t stand the light, and Jesus is the light of the world. And the darker the world gets, the more it hates the light of God shining through us, not to mention shining down and exposing its evil.
The more like Jesus we become through reading God’s word, prayer, and doing what Jesus would do, the more people are not going to like us. The Apostle Paul said,
“Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12 NIV)
To live a godly life means we will bring upon ourselves persecution and harassment. The world will have a field day, because it cannot stand those who are opposed to it. Jesus didn’t fit into the world’s mold. He wouldn’t do what the religious leaders wanted Him to do. He wouldn’t compromise or conform. So that left them with two options: follow Him or kill Him. So they killed Him.