by Erin Bird
What a WONDERFUL day we had this past Sunday – wonderful weather, wonderful food, wonderful friends, and a wonderful Worship Gathering. If you want to see a few photos of the day, head over to our Facebook page.
Today on the blog, we conclude our series on the Beatitudes. We tie it all up by combining the last two beatitudes, which make one point. Here they are:
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Going through Hell to gain Heaven
Nobody enjoys being mocked and insulted. When someone lobs a verbal grenade our way, we often want to retaliate with our machine gun of witty retorts.
But here at the end of the Beatitudes, Jesus seems to be saying, “Take it.”
When someone makes fun of you for following Jesus, when someone insults you because of your faith, when someone arrests you or beats you for proclaiming Jesus as your King, He says you are blessed. When you endure harsh treatment because you bear the name of Jesus, you gain the Kingdom of Heaven.
But can I be honest? If I sat in a prison, wearing physical and emotional wounds and scars for my faith, it would feel more like hell than heaven.
If you live with a “this-earth-is-all-there-is” mindset, then yes, this sort of persecution and mockery is hell to go through. But if you live with a Kingdom mindset that says, “This earth is not my home,” then you can endure the pain of persecution because you know something better awaits.
Look to Jesus
We see this very clearly in the life of Jesus. The author of the letter to the Hebrews says it very beautifully and bluntly in the first two verses of chapter 12:
“…[L]et us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
The cross was the pinnacle of persecution. The jealous Jewish leaders tried to quell the movement of Jesus by insisting He be executed. The Roman government wanted to send a message that any “King” would be conquered by the mighty Caesar.
Jesus endured this intense persecution with a deep sense of joy, because of what He knew awaited Him on the other side.
And yet Jesus endured this intense persecution with a deep sense of joy, because of what He knew awaited Him on the other side. He did it for love, knowing His sacrifice would free us from the shackles of sin, bringing us back into a relationship with our Creator.
And this knowledge of his love and sacrifice changes us. It makes us more like him, which means it impacts how we respond to persecution:
[list type=unordered extra=]
[list_item]That’s why we see in Acts 4 the Jesus-followers rejoicing that they were found worthy of persecution.
[list_item]It’s why we find Paul & Silas singing songs of worship to God from inside a jail cell in Acts chapter 16.[/list_item]
[list_item]And it’s why Jesus says to you, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you…on my account.”[/list_item]
Before I let you go, let me make one disclaimer here.
Oftentimes I hear Christians talk about being “persecuted” because the cashier at the store isn’t allowed to wish them Merry Christmas or the valedictorian wasn’t allowed to pray at the end of her speech at her public high school graduation.
These instances aren’t persecution. No one is being physically beaten. Most likely, no one is being ridiculed for their faith. We live in a free secular society that allows for people to worship however they want, and so the promotion of just one faith isn’t welcomed in these arenas. So to call these situations “persecution,” is not only inaccurate, it’s insulting to our brothers and sisters in Christ who live around the globe and face intense persecution for their beliefs.
But back here in America, sometimes when a Jesus-follower lives out his faith, and his faith naturally comes out in his interactions at the store or in his acceptance speech, he might be ridiculed or mocked on Twitter, he might be gossiped about around town, or he might not get hired because of his faith. That WOULD be persecution, but not on the level of what some of our brothers and sisters in the faith endure day in and day out.
Let me encourage you to not worry about persecution. Like the writer of the book of Hebrews said in the verse we looked at above, just keep your eyes on Jesus. Keep looking to Him whether you face persecution or not. But if you do receive persecution because you proclaim the name of Jesus, may you realize you are blessed – for the Kingdom of Heaven is yours.