Sermon On The Mount Devotional Blog 11

Sermon On The Mount Devotional

Blessed are the Persecuted

Read Matthew 5:1-12 (focusing on vv. 10-12)  (ESV)

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Sometimes words receive new meaning over time, do they not? Ten years ago, if you were to call someone a “snowflake”, they might have looked at you quizzically. Perhaps someone has been called a “flake” within your hearing, and we would know that they were saying that this person is strange or off. Today if you called someone a “snowflake”, we understand it to be referring to a college student or young adult who we perceive to be easily offended or one who cannot take criticism or a challenge to their ideas and beliefs. I have heard it reported that some on college campuses have requested “safe” zones, places where they will not be challenged or attacked over their ideas. Some have even stated that they feel “persecuted” over their beliefs and have felt personally threatened. I hate the idea that anyone feels demeaned or threatened over their beliefs, but some forms of persecution are greater than others.

While the meaning of words can change over time, this Beatitude has a clear meaning, untouched by time. Christ is making the statement that in this life we will be attacked and ridiculed for our faith in Jesus. We might even be attacked or killed for being His followers and that that is a badge of honor, showing that we are indeed His children.

Have you ever been mocked for what you believe? Now if you believe that the earth is flat instead of round, perhaps we can understand being mocked for this. But what of those who are condemned, ostracized, or killed for believing the Word of God as truth? There was a movie in the past few years entitled God’s Not Dead that explored some of these themes. It followed a few individuals who attended the same college class in which their professor ridiculed anyone who questioned secular, humanistic science or supported a Biblical worldview. One young woman came from a Muslim family and was truly ostracized and kicked out of her home by an antagonistic father. One young man had to defend what he believed in front of his college class under the scrutinizing eye of his hostile professor. While this was simply a fictional movie, it represents what happens on many secular campuses each day. We are living in an ever increasingly hostile and persecuting country and world. In a world where morality is relative, each person determining what is right for themselves, tolerance is the new religion. The new mantra is that each person should be allowed to believe and live however they see fit. We are called to live and let live, tolerating anything that is put before us. Tolerance is extended to everyone and any beliefs, except Christian truth. Christ is maligned and ridiculed as being bigoted and intolerant. Christ’s exclusive claim of “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me” is seen as unacceptable in a world where no one can claim an exclusive hold on truth and a “one way” religion is hated, even by those who claim extreme tolerance to any and all other beliefs.

Blessed”, He says, “are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake”. If we are persecuted for following Jesus, for standing up for what is right as outlined in the Scripture, Christ says that we are blessed. Remember from a previous study that blessed means a “soul contentedness (Godly happiness) flowing from God’s approval of us in Christ, living a life totally reliant on Him”. So, blessed are we when people “utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” Have we ever been hated for taking a stand for Christ? I can remember a time in college when one summer I was working construction. I was surrounded by some extremely hard-working men of different ages, men who taught me a lot about daily perseverance and working for excellence, but these men were also deeply secular when it came to morality. While never persecuted out rightly, I was poked fun at and mildly ridiculed for my beliefs, especially when it ran counter to their views of love and sexuality. They knew that I held my beliefs because of being a Christian, and, while I would not put my discomfort and embarrassment into the category of those who have truly suffered under persecution for what they believed, it was uncomfortable and hard at times. Have you ever experienced something similar? At work or at school?

Christ goes on to tell us that when we are persecuted in this way we are to “Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven.” We may not have respect or peace here on earth as we will be hated or mocked or persecuted, but know this, follower of Christ, we have an eternal reward awaiting us. This reward will make these times seem a “light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”. (II Cor. 4:17) There is a second point in regard to this verse that I want to bring out. Remember who Christ’s audience is- believers. He is not saying here that being persecuted for what you believe will earn you entrance into heaven. We have dealt with this issue before but it is worth repeating. Christ here speaks to those who have already been saved by grace, through faith, in the finished work of Jesus on the Cross. He speaks to those who already are promised eternal life with Him. What He says here is that while we may endure great hardship in the here and now, let our promised eternal home in Heaven with Him, motivate and encourage us to persevere even through the most difficult circumstance, including ridicule, rejection, and rioting against our persons.

When we are persecuted, we are in good company. Many in the past have been hated for following the Lord. Christ here references some in the Old Testament, “for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” In I Kings 18 we read of King Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, persecuting the prophet Elijah. They hated him because he spoke out and prophesied against them in the name of the Lord. Ahab and Jezebel were wicked and evil, haters of the One True God, and leading God’s people away from Him toward the idols of the land. One of the most famous confrontations between Elijah and this evil was on Mt. Carmel where he came up against the Baal prophets. Elijah, representing God, brought judgment and ultimate destruction down on these Baal prophets who represented Ahab, Jezebel, and evil. Elijah as a prophet of God was persecuted for the sake of righteousness, rightly following after the One True God.

So, What Now?

Do we go out and seek persecution because of the promised rewards here? Of course not. That would be a form of masochism. No, if we truly follow after Christ, we will not have to seek persecution- it will find us. Whatever difficulties you might face now as a result of following Christ, they are meant to point us to and remind us of the sufferings of Jesus. He was persecuted by His own people, ridiculed, and hated. He endured all that so that we might have peace with God. Rejoice and live out of gratitude, even when it costs.