“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10
We have been exploring the Beatitudes (beautiful attitudes!) this month, and throughout these readings, Jesus highlights eight unexpected situations in which you receive God’s favor and blessings. As we get to the end of the Beatitudes, we see here in verse 10 nothing different but it does not sound easy.
When you read through each verse of the Beatitudes you can see how to be blessed. The word “blessed” means happiness. The beatitudes do not promise laughter, pleasure, or earthly prosperity (Which is what we all want, right?). I love laughing and enjoying life with the people that are the closest to me, and I enjoy buying new toys to play with. I mean, I am human, but that is not what Jesus is talking about here.
To Jesus, “blessed” means the experience of hope and joy, independent of outward circumstances. Basically, you will be able to be happy no matter what is happening around you. To find hope and joy, the deepest form of happiness, follow Jesus no matter what the cost. In verse 10 there is a deep cost, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew is saying to expect nothing in return except persecution. Do not expect anything from the world in return except criticism. Now that sounds fun, does it not? That is all I want is to be criticized, persecuted, and get nothing in return (says the extremely sarcastic person). However, God is with the persecuted church as you read the second half of this verse, “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The Message paraphrase says, “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution.” We will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, that is our blessing for being attacked here on earth for what we believe. It would not be an instantaneous blessing, like we may want. It is a long term blessing, one that you can take to the bank when you get to Heaven!
So, to pose a question, do you believe in Jesus enough that it is evident to others around you to receive persecution and criticism? That really puts this into perspective. You may be thinking to yourself as you consider your walk with Jesus, “Do I even love Jesus?” Relax, of course, you do, or you would not be pursuing holiness by reading this devotion today. It is one step closer, it is one more level up in your walk with Jesus.
I love that 1 Peter 3:14-15 confirms a blessing when we are suffering for Jesus, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
It all goes back to what I stated in the beginning as we defined blessing. The blessings we will receive are not earthly blessings – they are heavenly blessings. When we are persecuted and attacked for what we believe we need to not fear our enemies but rather trust in God as the Lord of all. We must believe that Jesus is truly in control of all events. When He rules our thoughts and emotions, we cannot be shaken by anything our enemies may do for we are inheriting the blessings of Heaven! One day we will be with God in Heaven with no pain, no sadness, no fear, and all His glory and wonder! That is what we are striving for.