Matthew 5 vs 10
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
No-one I know seeks or welcomes persecution. The word has the sense of an act being deliberately designed to wound and hurt. There is a vengeful edge to it. That said it is becoming almost unavoidable today that a Christian will be on the end of some form of opposition. Whether it is accurately described as persecution depends on the intention and the intensity. A Christian, for here Jesus is addressing his followers, who in the workplace is regularly scorned, humiliated, and ostracised by colleagues could describe herself as persecuted, others are simply misunderstood and misrepresented.
John Stott writes* “the condition of being despised and rejected, slandered and persecuted , is as much the normal mark of Christian discipleship as being pure in heart or merciful. Those who hunger for righteousness will suffer for the righteousness they crave.” Let’s not give in to feelings of self pity though, we do not yet suffer to the same degree as brothers and sisters across the world who endure beatings, the loss of property, unemployment, estrangement from their families, imprisonment and even death for this cause.
Persecution is one thing but suffering because we have done the right thing or because we long to be more Christ like has an added sense of injustice. That said, before we in the west, who have had it our own way for so long complain, it is well to ensure that there is nothing in our own attitude that represents pride, being judgemental, or just plain objectionable or argumentative. If we are going to suffer let it be because of righteousness. The injustice or loss we suffer here and now may be hard to bear but the promise of Jesus means that whatever is lost will pale against what is gained, “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
*John Stott. Sermon on the Mount (IVP) P53
Lord I pray today for those who suffer persecution and loss, those who are unjustly imprisoned and rejected by their families because of their faith in Jesus. Lord comfort and strengthen them in their pain and sorrow and help me endure without complaint whatever may fall to me because of Jesus. Amen
(optional of course)