Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
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 (Mat. 5:10-12).
This is the last of the beatitudes found in Matthew 5:3-12. While the other beatitudes are one verse apiece, this final thought demands a little more elaboration – probably because it would be harder to bear.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted”?? The word “persecuted” means to put in rapid motion. The idea is that the disciples are caused to flee because of the intense threats and even murder of God’s people. Jesus goes on to say that God’s people would be insulted by their persecutors, and people would use their words with the intent of tearing them down by spreading lies about them.
So why do bad things happen to good people? You know, that’s really not the right question. The truth is, bad things happen to everyone. So the question is not “Will I suffer?”, the right question is “HOW will I suffer?”.
Peter makes this distinction very clear.
But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter (1 Pet. 4:15-16).
Sometimes we bring suffering on ourselves, don’t we? We sin and we reap the consequences. Other times we suffer simply because suffering is a part of life as we know it. We live in a world that is dominated by sin, and everyone feels its effects. Peter shows us that even Christians suffer. In so doing, he also illustrates to us that there is a right way to suffer and a wrong way to suffer. How will I react to suffering?
Suffering as a Christian is glorifying to God. Peter says, “let him glorify God in this matter” (1 Pet. 4:16). Further, we read that love suffers long (1 Cor. 13:4), and that long suffering, or endurance in the face of trials, is a part of bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Oh, and don’t forget that Jesus said that those who suffer for the sake of righteousness are “blessed” and should “rejoice” (Mat. 5:10-12).
Let’s wrap it up: We are not the first people of God who have been persecuted throughout history. Jesus said, “for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mat. 5:12). Paul reminds us that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). So it comes down to this: I can hurt and reject God or I can hurt and glorify God. Which do you choose?