Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 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 5:10-12 NKJV
Is there any of us who wants to be on the team that is set for persecution? If their coaches arrived in town to take applicants, they may not find any. A known fact is that people enjoy comfort, acceptance, and companionship. They do not enjoy persecution.
Still, Jesus is telling us that those who are persecuted for righteousness sake or false accusation because of Him, are in line for blessings–life in the kingdom of heaven with great reward.
Peter carried this message as well. In 1st Peter 3:13-17, He wrote, And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
Let’s take a look at the word persecuted. We will begin with the Greek. It is Strong’s #1377 and it means:
- to make to run or flee, put to flight, drive away
- to run after to catch a person or thing, pursue in a hostile manner
- to harass, trouble, molest one, to persecute or mistreat on account of something
Jesus tells His disciples before sending them out, When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. Matthew 10:23
Later He told them, If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. John 15:18-21
Paul shares his testimony of being a persecutor. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished. Acts 22:4-5
Later, Paul writes to the Corinthians speaking about himself and the others with him who are sharing the gospel. To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the off-scouring of all things until now. 1 Corinthians 4:11-13
Let’s take a look at the Hebrew meaning. The word persecuted in Hebrew is Strong’s #7291. It means to be pursued, chased, or harassed. Thus, Greek and Hebrew align in meaning.
Here are a couple of scriptures Jesus was looking back at when He spoke this beatitude.
Deuteronomy 16:20 You shall follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
2 Chronicles 36:16 But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed (laughed) at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy.
Nehemiah 9:26 Nevertheless they were disobedient and rebelled against You,
Cast Your law behind their backs and killed Your prophets, who testified against them.
Psalm 119:85-87 The proud have dug pits for me, which is not according to Your law. All Your commandments are faithful; They persecute me wrongfully; Help me! They almost made an end of me on earth, But I did not forsake Your precepts.
In today’s world, we’ve seen this play out for those who speak the truth, pursue righteousness, and do all they can to honor God.
How about Judge Roy Moore? Judge Moore was suspended from his post. He was charged with six ethics violations for refusing to remove the granite monument of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Supreme Court building by August 20, 2003. On November 13, 2004, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary expelled Moore from his position as Chief Justice.
How about all the harassment Tim Tebow endured and endures for walking out his Christian faith in the middle of the arena of sports?
In this past few months, two pastors in Canada were arrested. They were put in jail, kicked, and beaten for holding church services or inviting people to attend church. See stories here and here.
There are many reports of this kind of treatment. Christians in other countries are being killed, beheaded, or indefinitely imprisoned for sharing the gospel. But God sees, and He will reward these courageous, steadfast sons and daughters with blessings untold.
Paul counsels Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:10-12 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and ALL WHO DESIRE TO LIVE GODLY IN CHRIST JESUS WILL SUFFER PERSECUTION.
While some of you, reading this post, may not experience this harsh treatment, others will. We need to be aware that if we take a stand for righteousness, we are also a target for persecution.
We also need to remember that this world is not our home. We are already seated in heaven with Jesus. Paul reminds us where to keep our focus. If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4
The life we live here on earth is but a blink in eternity. While suffering seems at times to go on forever, it won’t. Refusing the ways of the world is to walk with Jesus. David wrote, Better is one day in Your courts than thousands elsewhere. Psalm 84:10.
In another place he wrote as he observed the lives of the ungodly.
Behold, these are the ungodly,
Who are always at ease;
They increase in riches.
13 Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain,
And washed my hands in innocence.
14 For all day long I have been plagued,
And chastened every morning.
15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
Behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children.
16 When I thought how to understand this,
It was too painful for me—
17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God;
Then I understood their end.
18 Surely You set them in slippery places;
You cast them down to destruction.
19 Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment!
They are utterly consumed with terrors.
23Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You hold me by my right hand.
24 You will guide me with Your counsel,
And afterward receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
26 My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
27 For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish;
You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry.
28 But it is good for me to draw near to God;
I have put my trust in the Lord God,
That I may declare all Your works. Psalm 73:12-19, 23-28
Let us live pursuing righteousness, honoring God, and sharing His gospel wherever we go. Regardless of what we face here, we will be eternally blessed by God.
Shalom my friends. ♥