“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 5:11-12
Rejoice and be glad when others revile, persecute, and speak evil of you. Wow! If that is not completely counter-culture, I do not know what is. Yet, is that not who Jesus was? He often lived the complete opposite of everything that this world values and stands for. We live in a broken, sinful world. Paul reminds us in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” However, as followers of Jesus Christ who have experienced the life change that comes through knowing Him, we know that we no longer have to live in our sin, nor are we held back by the chains of death.
When Jesus shares this passage here on the mount, He takes the opportunity to teach a real, and sometimes hard truth about what this new life through Him looks like – a life that has been justified through the blood of Christ and the new life we enter into. You see, if we truly enter into a relationship with Christ, our life is going to change. It will be a life change that will radically change your life for the better. However, just as true with many changes in life, there will be growing pains and learning curves. One of these learning curves is persecution. The fact is, that once we take on the identity of Jesus, this broken and sinful world will not accept us in the same way it did before. Why? It is because we are no longer conforming to the things of this world as Paul writes in Romans 12:2, but we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ.
Therefore, this is why Jesus tells us that we are to rejoice and be glad when we are reviled, persecuted, and people speak evil against us for His sake. We know that the reason this will happen is that we are truly following the heartbeat of Christ and becoming more and more like Him as we daily grow closer to Him. Jesus adds one final note saying how this persecution and hate we as followers of Christ receive is nothing new. In Matthew 5:12 Jesus says, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” I truly believe Jesus said this as an encouragement to us. First, it is to know that we are not alone. Second, it is so that we will look to the Scriptures for encouragement and see that our brothers and sisters before us who were counter-culture and lived a life pleasing to the Lord, experienced the same persecution and hate that we experience today over two thousand years later.