Summary: Introduction: We are made to love and to be loved. We like to be liked. Friendship is the atmosphere in which we breathe most freely. To be ridiculed as a child is a heart breaking experience, but the pain is not lessened as one becomes an adult.
Persecution-The Way to Happiness
Text: "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matt. 5:10-12 NIV).
Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:10-12
We are made to love and to be loved. We like to be liked. Friendship is the atmosphere in which we breathe most freely. To be ridiculed as a child is a heart breaking experience, but the pain is not lessened as one becomes an adult. Persecution in the form of harassment and unfair accusations may destroy our private castles of security. Of all the injuries that can be afflicted on a human being, persecution possibly comes the closest to making life hell on earth.
Therefore, the Lord’s final beatitude seems almost paradoxical. "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is "the kingdom of heaven." To be honest, this is the most difficult of the Beatitudes to believe. The reason for this difficulty is that persecution seems to be the antithesis of happiness. Furthermore, it seems like a strange statement to come from the lips of such a compassionate Savior. How can we understand our Lord when he congratulates those who are persecuted and encourages them to rejoice in their persecution? Obviously there is a paradox to be explained.
I. A paradox to be explained.
"Blessed [happy] are those who are persecuted." It seems incredible that our Lord would say something so contradictory and is probably the most confusing declaration ever made by Christ.
A. It is a paradox that a person can be "happy " when suffering. How can anyone be happy when being persecuted or lied about? We enjoy the sense of security that comes from occasional words of approval, but persecution destroys everything that brings enjoyment and security.
Persecution encourages self-examination, which always makes a person happier. We must be careful to avoid coming to the conclusion that we are suffering for righteousness’ sake each time we are persecuted. More often we suffer for something we have done wrong rather than right. When a newly enlisted soldier discovers that he is out of step with the rest of his troop, his first action should be to listen to see if he is in error. One value of persecution is that it promotes self-examination so we can understand why others do not like us. Perhaps we should ask ourselves whether we measure up to the preceding beatitudes.
Persecution affords an opportunity to demonstrate our loyalty to Christ. Many of us deny him by our silence when we have a chance to stand up and be counted. We are afraid that open loyalty to Jesus may bring persecution. To stand faithfully by our Savior’s side does bring persecution, but it also brings happiness.
B. It is a paradox that a person can be persecuted for doing good. The Living Bible says, "Happy are those who are persecuted because they are good" (Matt. 5:10), and the Good News translation reads, "Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires" (TEV).
Sometimes a person is persecuted for doing good because doing good disturbs others. No one embodied the Beatitudes more perfectly than Jesus Christ himself. Yet he was the most hated advocate of the Christian faith. Even though he advised his disciples against needlessly antagonizing their enemies, their Christ like goodness upset others.
The church and individual Christians who dare to stand by the principles of Christ must be prepared for persecution. Whenever the churches ceases to be the moral conscience of its community, it also ceases to be the yeast in the bread, the salt of the earth, and the light set on the hill.
Sometimes doing good interferes with those who want to do bad. For example, the pure in heart insist on truth. This interferes with those who want to follow their passions or prejudices. People who are merciful advocate forgiveness while others demand vengeance. Peacemakers quietly seek to stop hostility while warmongers insist that the only solution to a world problem is open warfare.
ll. A pattern to be avoided.
Nero’s persecution that slaughtered Christians by the hundreds may not be the pattern in America, but persecution continues to be real and tends to follow the pattern Christ mentions in verse 11. This pattern of persecuting others should be avoided. Jesus said, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me" (NIV).
A. The pattern of slander Jesus mentions those who "insult you." This expression speaks of misrepresentations that degrade another person’s reputation. The early church was not immune to such slander. They were accused of cannibalism as they gathered to observe the Lord’s Supper. They were charged with immoral practices as they gathered for their love feast. The people of the early church were even accused of being fanatical doomsayers as they spoke of the ultimate end of the world. Some people today continue to use slander as an effective tool for persecution. But Christ reminds us that this pattern should be avoided.