Suggested Reading: Matthew 5:10-12
Jesus tells us that we will be persecuted when we take a stand for what is right. But immediately He adds that if that happens, we are blessed because the Kingdom of heaven will be ours. This is no small promise. The kingdom of heaven is the only Eternal kingdom and there is no other kingdom on this earth to whose government there will be no end. This is by no means a negligible promise.
When we stand up for righteousness and make it clear that we follow the teachings of Christ and not those of the latest trendsetters, we may find that people insult us, persecute us and falsely say all kinds of evil against us. We shouldn’t be surprised when this happens. Jesus promised it will happen more than 2000 years ago. It’s acceptable to admit you’re “spiritual” or of just about any spiritual orientation, but mention the name of Jesus and you may be frowned upon.
Not every persecuted person is persecuted because of righteousness. Some people are persecuted because of their wrong deeds. Persecution in itself does not make a person a saint or qualify him for some special reward. We also don’t go about deliberately causing trouble and when people speak up against that, we hide behind the cloak of this beatitude. The blessings of this beatitude are linked to doing the right thing.
Not everyone who calls themselves a Christian is a follower of Jesus either. They go to church and do all the expected Christian stuff. But they don’t take much notice of Jesus’ teachings and how He said we should live and treat others. A true follower of Jesus will study His life closely and it will be very important to such a one to be acquianted with Jesus’ teachings. The true followers will find themselves persecuted. Those who put up a religious show will be willing to bend to the ways of the world if they see it may benefit them. They are not persecuted for fitting right in with the latest religious trends. When we follow in the footstept of Jesus, often at the expense of being unpopular, we may face persecution as following His teachings often involve making decisions that go against the accepted norm.
A man once found himself in a situation where money was demanded from him as a debt. He knew he did not owe this debt. He was at a crossroad. He could either stand up for his rights, but this may have meant a long, drawn-out court case. He had a good chance of winning, since he had ample evidence that he did not owe this debt. His other option was to follow the teaching of Christ. Jesus taught that we should give to the one who demands from us. And if someone demands our shirt, we should give our coat too. Being a follower of Christ, he decided to apply the teaching of Christ. He also paid these people more than they initially demanded from him. In the process, he was called “stupid”, “idiot” and some other unsavoury names by those who were unfamiliar with this teaching of Jesus. Some of them were not so unfamiliar with this teaching. One of those who said he will never do something so stupid, called himself a pastor. Some will follow the Lord Jesus as long as they can gain some kind of personal benefit from doing so. However, when faced with the possibility of a personal loss for following His advice, they go the other way and justify their actions somehow.
However, those who follow His teachings even when it hurts, they will often be the objects of ridicule and scorn. But when this happens, we need not despair. This man may have suffered some financial loss, but what he gained in the process far exceeded his expectations. His relationship with his family grew closer and more loving. His children, who once kept a distance from him, reconciled and the restored relationships in his life cannot be measured with money. The blessings he received for his obedience were priceless. His financial loss was soon recovered in other ways he didn’t imagine possible. As for those who unfairly demanded the money from him, the losses they suffered could not be measured in terms of money either. Their loss was so great that the man was filled with compassion for them.
The Lord may also decide that we see none of these blessings in our life time. Even if this is the case, could we still remain faithful to His teachings? Could we still continue to trust His word? Jeremiah preached for a few decades with very few people ever showing any real interest in what he had to say. In fact, they persecuted him because they didn’t like the messages he brought. But yet Jeremiah remained faithful to his calling. He served God not because of expected rewards, but because he loved His God. When we do the right thing because we love the Lord, it will not matter much if we see the blessings immediately or not. Jesus says that in the presence of such adversity we should “rejoice.” This may sound silly on the surface, but if we really had to see the rewards in store for the persecuted, we will truly rejoice. As for now, we rejoice in persecutions since we receive this promise of our Lord by faith in His character. When you are persecuted because you took a stand for the right thing, don’t despair. Do the opposite: “Rejoice and be glad,” because great is your reward in heaven. Rewards greater than anything you could ever imagine. A reward that will make the few troubles on this earth look insignificant. As Paul said, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18).
Remember: What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right. May the Lord grant us the grace to take a stand for the right thing, even if we become unpopular in the process.
- The Beatitudes: Blessed are those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness (thoughtsonscripture.com)
- The Beatitudes: Blessed Are The Peacemakers (thoughtsonscripture.com)
- Beatitudes: How They Connect To Each Other (thoughtsonscripture.com)