Matthew 5:1-12 — Be Glad When You are Persecuted? Jesus, C’mon Now! Really? I Mean…Really?

Posted: September 30, 2015 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 5:1-12 — There is an old saying that you often here in Christian circles. It goes something like this, “If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” That’s the feeling that I get from this last beatitude. When we live a life of action not a life of the status quo, we are naturally going to come in conflict with worldly values. It’s just going to happen. How, in those moments, are we going to react? Are we going to stand in faith? Will we compromise our beliefs just to fit in? Will people know that we are Christ followers or will we be like a chameleon and become like the environment where we are found. Will we be Christ followers when we are surrounded by other Christ followers and just one of the guys when we are outside the church circle of friends? When the heat is on, will we have what it takes to gladly identify ourselves with Christ or will we blend in to the fabric of a world that revels in its rebellion against God?

The final Beatitude is the only one that takes two verses to complete. In Matthew 5:11-12, Jesus says, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” In yesterday’s blog, we saw that Jesus pretty much guaranteed that we would be persecuted for living a life of righteousness. If we live a life in pursuit of righteousness, there will be instances where we will have not compromised with what the world wants of us at times. Now, Jesus ramps it up a notch. Jesus in sentence 1 of this Beatitude says that we are in blessed when people do all sorts of nasty things to us because we believe in Jesus. And, we by a matter of understanding, read this sentence and say yeah I can see how that would happen. I think that is why this Beatitude was split into two verses. Then, in the second verse, Jesus says we should “rejoice and be glad”. Whoa! C’mon now JC? I can understand how we will be ridiculed, vilified, and maybe even tortured physically for having believed in you. We have seen it throughout history and it occurs even today throughout the world. That part I can buy. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, it means that we live to please God and not man. That means will sometimes be ridiculed for not going with the flow. We will be persecuted for not claiming something that is not God as our god. We will often have different values than the world around us. But to be happy about it, now that is a stretch don’t ya think?

In order to understand this Beatitude, we first must remember who Jesus’ primary audience for the Sermon on the Mount is…his disciples. Remember at the beginning of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1, the Bible says, “Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him.” So, he has his disciples right directly in front of him when he goes through his Sermon on the Mount. I think what Jesus is trying to say here is that he knows that his disciples will be facing all kinds of persecution after he returns to Heaven. He is trying to get them to see that basically, if you are being persecuted, you must be doing your job. Through the centuries from that day, Jesus speaks to us in the same way.

Jesus certainly doesn’t want us to be persecuted for believing in Him but it is inevitable in a world that continues to reject the gospel message. The world does not want to admit that we are sinners in need of a Savior. The world does not want to admit that we are condemned by our sin. We like to think that we control our destiny. If we just do as much or more good than bad, then we can go to heaven. We want to believe that no matter what we believe or how we believe that we will get to heaven. We don’t want to believe that one sin taints us forever much less the many sins that we commit daily. We want to believe that we are basically good and capable of controlling our sin nature when we are really unable to do so. People don’t want to believe that we are in need of outside intervention from a perfect and holy Savior. We want to think we can do it ourselves. We don’t want to think that this one and only perfect Savior is the only way to the Father. We see the world around us even today that says the Bible is no longer valid so as to justify their behaviors and lifestyles. If you are living a life that seeks to glorify God in everything that we do, it may bring you in conflict with the world that thinks that God does not exist anymore. If you are living a life that values each and every human life as being of great value to the Creator, it may bring you in conflict with the world. If you see that God’s image in every man regardless of his race or ethnicity, it may bring you in conflict with the world. If you seek justice for the poor, it many bring you in conflict with the world. If you seek to free people from modern slavery and attempt to prosecute those who enslave others, it may bring you in conflict with the world. If you see God’s Word as constant and true and unchanging and see that the male-female bond in marriage is the only God-ordained union, we will come in conflict with the world.

As we learned yesterday, we are not to seek to be in conflict with the world. We are to seek reconciliation for the world first. We are to love those who live lives that are in opposition to God’s Word. We are not to condemn them. However, we do draw the line at the point at which we are asked to compromise God’s Word. That is the tension that we live. To love those whose lifestyles are in opposition to God’s Word so that we can share the gospel with them. We love them so we can have the opportunity to tell them about Jesus. However, in that effort, if we are asked to compromise who we are and become like the world just so we can have an “in” with the world then what have we become – a watered down gospel that is meaningless. It is almost inevitable in a world that glorifies sin and justifies by bashing the Bible and throwing it under the bus that we will come in conflict with the world if we full on believe what it says.

Thus, if people marginalize us, ridicule us, ostracize us, take things away from us, torture us, kill us for what we believe in, then, we must have been fairly public about it. Then if we have demonstrated our faith and have not hidden it, we have done what Christ did and the persecuted prophets before him. Christ was not afraid of the consequences of demonstrating his love of his fellow man regardless of station in life. He was not afraid of saying that things are not right in the eyes of God and preaching for change. He was not afraid to challenge us to be like our Father. He was not afraid to make us uncomfortable in doing so. Thus, if we have been persecuted for modeling our life after that of Christ then we should be glad. That was what he was telling the disciples. That is what he is telling us.

This gladness is not the human standard of leaping for joy because something good has happened to us, but rather the kind of joy espoused by the Apostle Paul. It was Paul who found joy in having done what his Lord compelled him to do through the actions of the Holy Spirit in his heart. If we use Jesus’ ultimate persecution as the measure of whether we are being effective in our personal ministries, then, we should count it as a compliment to the Jesus-likeness we have achieved if someone or a group or a government finds the truth that we are speaking as uncomfortable enough to try to quiet us or destroy us.

Lord, may you imbue us with the boldness, the fortitude, and the grit of our Savior Jesus Christ. May we have lived a life that has stirred up the world about you. May we have made such a difference in people’s lives for you that we pose a threat to the status quo. Please Lord, embolden us, Amen.
To summarize and conclude on our study of the Beatitudes, you see that the premise that was put forth in the beginning is that the Beatitudes are about action not just meekly accepting the status quo (as the critics of the Beatitudes and Christianity in general would have us believe). Those who say that simply don’t have a relationship with Jesus nor have they studied what Jesus has to say in the Beatitudes. Thereby, they miss their beauty and their meaningfulness to a committed Christian life. The Beatitudes require action or change in our life. The Beatitudes are about changing from a “me” attitude to an attitude of focusing on the giving away the love that we have been given to others. Here is a summary of what I learned, and maybe you too:
1. Blessed are the poor in spirit – Here we learned that we become blessed by God when we learn to rely on God and instead of our own ability to control our world.
2. Blessed are those who mourn – Here we learned that we must be broken from our pride of who we are. We learned that through our loss of control do we learn that God is in control. Once we let go and let God be in control then we become blessed. No longer do we have selfish agendas.
3. Blessed are the meek – Here we learned is about humbly trusting God, holding tighter to his hand, and letting go.
4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – Here we see that through never been satisfied with ourselves, never being satisfied with accepting the world as it is we become blessed.
5. Blessed are the merciful – Mercy is more than a feeling of sympathy. Mercy is getting off the couch of self-involvement and responding to another person’s needs.
6. Blessed are pure in heart – We learned that our heart must be purified of our own self-righteousness so that we can fully experience God and thus show his love to others.
7. Blessed are peacemakers – When we have sold out to Jesus, we become more interested in the plight of others rather than our own selfish needs.
8. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness – We learned that we become blessed when our relationship with Jesus is so important to me that I will risk everything for it.
9. Blessed are you when you persecuted because of me (Joy in Times of Trouble) – We learned here that we should find joy in achieving the impact for God that Jesus did if we are being persecuted because of acting like Jesus.

As you see, the Beatitudes are indeed about action. About a change in us. Through that change in us, we become willing to change the world on behalf of God because we no longer have selfish agendas. We truly care about our world around us on those in it. We then become agents for change by God’s standards.

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