Summary: Today we finish up the beatitudes. They all work together-being poor in spirit causes me to have godly sorrow. Being meek allows me to be merciful and thus-a peacemaker. If I hunger and thirst for righteousness I will be pure in heart. All of these are important in dealing with persecution.
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT (part four)
Today we finish up the beatitudes. And in looking at them I can see how they all work together-Being poor in spirit causes me to mourn (have godly sorrow). Being meek (kind, gentle and humble) allows me to be merciful. If I hunger and thirst for righteousness I will be pure in heart. I can see how being meek and merciful enables me to be a peacemaker. And having all of these characteristics are important in being able to endure persecution.
1) Blessed are those who are persecuted.
Matt. 5:10, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
When we choose to live out the virtues that Jesus talks about in Matthew five we are going to be persecuted. When we are meek we'll be made fun of. People will try to convince us we're doing something wrong by being merciful. We'll be laughed at for living a pure life.
If we hunger and thirst for righteousness, some people will ridicule us for it. 'You're reading your bible again? You're going to church again? How can you do all that church stuff?' Wear a Christian t-shirt and see if you don't get some weird looks. Start talking about Jesus at your next get together and see what responses you get. Christianity offends certain people. Some people think we're weird; others get upset.
However, all that persecution is not designed to be a curse but a blessing. It doesn't seem like a blessing, though. Blessed are you when people look at you funny or laugh at you or say mean things to you because of your faith. That doesn't sound very blessed.
It’s not that God is on the side of the persecutors. He doesn’t say, “Blessed are the persecutors; for they are doing my will.” However, Jesus knows persecution will come and he knows God will use it for good-for the shaping of his people and the spread of his gospel.
“Because of righteousness”. The blessing doesn’t come in just being persecuted but persecuted because of righteousness. We may be mistreated for reasons other than faith. We may suffer injustice in other areas of life but Jesus is specific here with the promised blessing for those who are suffering for righteous reasons.
1st Pet. 2:19-21, “For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”
If we are dealing with the difficult consequences of our actions there’s no blessing in that unless we learn from it and repent. However, there is a blessing when we’re suffering for good; when we’re suffering because we’re living for Jesus. When God's glory is behind our willingness to suffer for doing the right thing then God will bless it.
“For theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. The same reward offered to those who are poor in spirit. Both have to do with humility. Only in humility can I be poor in spirit; only in humility can I be willing to endure persecution. In humility I refrain from retaliating. And those who are humble will have the privilege of being able to recognize the reality of the kingdom of heaven.
The Jews thought that the kingdom would be reestablished by force. But Jesus wasn’t the earthly deliverer they were expecting. He was the spiritual deliverer they needed. His warriors would not be fighting with literal weapons but with spiritual ones. The kingdom would be advanced through spiritual means.
It's important that I understand that the kingdom of heaven is mine when I’m facing persecution. This can be a motivator for me-that my willingness to suffer is not in vain. But the kingdom of heaven is not only a future reward but also a current blessing.
Luke 17:20-21, “Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”
The kingdom of heaven is inside me; it’s the presence of the king, it’s the title of royalty that has already been bestowed upon me; it’s the spiritual treasures of heaven at my disposal. This is important to be reminded of when I get treated like the scum of the earth by those who reject the love of Christ.