This post is part of a series exploring the Beatitudes and the Salt and Light passage at the beginning of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5.

Before reading about today’s Beatitude, you may wish to consult the 4 principles for interpreting the Beatitudes (HERE). These principles help us read the Beatitudes in light of the Sermon on the Mount and one another.

And now, on to our Beatitude for today!

Blessed are the persecuted

“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.” ~ Matthew 5:10-12

Good and moral people are never persecuted for “goodness” sake because people like to think that what they see in the good person is true in them, too. We tend to believe that being a “good” person is at least attainable by focused effort. However, there is nothing compelling about a good or moral life because nothing about it indicates a radical transformation of the soul beyond what is possible through the grit and commitment of human efforts.

Righteousness will get you persecuted—not goodness or morality or tolerance or acceptance. Why? Because righteousness is other-worldly, scary, and impossibly unlike anything this world can offer in a book, philosophy, or classroom.

Who are the persecuted?

Jesus does not say that everyone who is persecuted is blessed. In this broken world, people are persecuted for a whole host of reasons, such as political, ethnic, gender, and socio-economic reasons. The blessed endure a specific kind of persecution: they are persecuted because they are righteous and because of their allegiance to Jesus Christ.

It is tempting to want to fit in, to avoid persecution if possible. It is tempting to minimize the demands of righteousness and avoid offending others. It takes little to no effort to skirt holiness and avoid repentance and contrition. In a world where perhaps the scariest things are “not fitting in,” being “un-friended” on social media, or fear of missing out, believers in Christ ought to consider who’s approval matters the most to them.

Those who are persecuted because they are intentionally rude when communicating the things of the Lord, or extravagantly pious when living out their Christian life are not persecuted for righteousness’ sake. They are persecuted because they are jerks. Those who exhibit a quiet submission to the Lord and an appropriate honor for holiness and the Word of God are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.

A Kingdom upside-down

“Sermon on the Mount” by Carl Heinrich Bloch

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus offers this same beatitude to his disciples from a slightly different angle. Rather than the positive “blessed are you” statement, he casts it in terms of both the positive “blessed” and the negative “woe.”

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. … Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” Luke 6:22–23, 26

As with all the other beatitudes, Jesus turns the expectations and desires of this world on their head. The world says that you are blessed if you amass a large following of people who slap your back in approval and if people speak well of you. Not so in the Kingdom of God! Jesus warns that such a disciple who courts favor in this world is in dangerous company: the false prophets.

Blessed are the persecuted, for they can rest assured they are in good company.

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2 Responses to Blessed Part 8: Those Who are Persecuted

  1. Great post Adam! It made me think about this: what did persecution look like at the time Jesus was teaching this? Were people being persecuted yet for righteousness, or was this “preparatory teaching“ by Jesus?

    • I never thought of that question. There were already some hints of the disciples being persecuted, or at least marginally oppressed, in the Gospels. I’m thinking of Peter getting questioned on the night of the betrayal, Joseph and Nicolas hiding their acceptance of Jesus, and the many ways the disciples were questioned by the Pharisees. But, by and large, it does seem this (and related teachings) was preparatory. Thanks for getting me thinking!

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