Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:10, NIV)
There is no denying that the world is quickly changing. What was once good, is now considered bad. What was once common sense is now considered offensive. And if you don’t conform to the new ideology, you are canceled. But there is also no denying that this is not really a new development. Jesus warned, thousands of years ago, that following Him and His teachings would not be easy.
Often when people speak of persecution, especially regarding Christianity, they are talking about the extreme. They are thinking of missionaries, such as Nate Saint*, who were killed during their attempt to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Or those Christians killed in other countries for their faith. Perhaps they even mean missionaries who have been kidnapped.
But persecution is not limited to foreign nations. It can also occur closer to home. Jesus and His disciples were facing persecution in their hometowns! From their friends and neighbors! Persecution can occur anywhere! And can occur in many forms.
Jesus is not calling all who are persecuted blessed. He is specifically talking of those who are persecuted for their righteousness. Righteousness is completely orientating your life toward God and His will. Righteousness is living for God – visibly and actively.
Jesus obviously pursued the will of God in all that He did. He is the only person to never fail, never falter, never stray. And what was His reward? Jesus was killed. As followers of Jesus Christ, we should also expect to be persecuted in some way for our faith, our belief, and our actions. Because they are of a higher standard than what the world holds.
Like all beatitudes, Jesus also offers hope. Those who are persecuted for their righteousness will receive the kingdom of heaven. Eternity with the Lord! It is impossible to truly imagine the reward that awaits those who suffer for God. Our ideas are clouded by earthly shortcomings. But whatever you are imagining – it will be even better!
Are you living a righteous life? It is a question we should ponder often. Examine your actions in recent days. Is there a time you went along with the crowd to avoid conflict? Are you standing up for the Lord? Insisting on following the wisdom given through the Bible? The world changes. God’s Word does not.
*Nate Saint was a missionary in Ecuador, along with Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Pete Fleming, and Roger Youderian. All five men were killed by a remote tribe on January 8, 1956, with whom they were attempting to share God’s word. Their missionary efforts were continued by friends and family, with many of the tribe coming to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, including the man who had personally killed Nate. Nate’s son, Steve Saint, was eventually baptized by that man.
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