“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 5:11–12, NKJV)
Blessedness Jesus says, comes when people defame us, persecute us, and say all kinds of evil things about us. He also tells us to rejoice, to be exceedingly glad, and expect a great reward in Heaven, just in case blessedness skipped our attention.
Have you been slandered lately? Has someone said something behind your back? Have you been harassed recently or felt intimidated by anyone? How did it make you feel? Blessed, exceedingly glad, or worthy of great reward? Probably not.
Maybe we do not feel this way because the reason behind the mistreatment failed to meet the conditions spelled out by Jesus.
Condition one: According to Jesus, the accusations that are spoken about us must be “false.” It would be wrong for us to expect the blessings of persecution if everything that is being said about us is actually true. So, we must be willing to be honest with ourselves, “Are people making defaming statements and saying things about us falsely? Or are they true?” Have we acted in ways that are deserving of their words? I am sure we can all agree that no blessedness should follow if the accusations against us are true!
Condition two: Persecution must be the result of acting for “His sake,” or out of regard or respect for Jesus, for His benefit, advantage, or good. If we are all honest, each of us has an expectation of blessing but want nothing of persecution. Let us be encouraged by the “expectation of persecution” from the great 18th century Methodist preacher John Wesley. J. G. Morrison reported:
John Wesley was riding along a road one day when it dawned on him that three whole days had passed in which he had suffered no persecution. Not a brick or an egg had been thrown at him for three days. Alarmed, he stopped his horse, and exclaimed, “Can it be that I have sinned, and am backslidden?” Slipping from his horse, Wesley went down on his knees and began interceding with God to show him where, if any, there had been a fault.
A rough fellow, on the other side of the hedge, hearing the prayer, looked across and recognized the preacher. “I’ll fix that Methodist preacher,” he said, picking up a brick and tossing it over at him. It missed its mark and fell harmlessly beside John. Whereupon Wesley leaped to his feet joyfully exclaiming, “Thank God, it’s all right. I still have His presence.”
I was challenged by John Wesley’s expectation of persecution and maybe you are as well. So, I had to ask myself the following questions. “Do I expect to be persecuted?”
“When was the last time I was persecuted falsely and for His sake?” I must ask, “What about you?”