Matthew 5: 1: And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, … 10: Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Walk: To walk with Jesus links us with persecution and suffering. His walk on earth was full of many sorrows. Some of those were the normal sorrows all of us endure such as loss of family members, friends being sick and just normal stuff. Some of those sorrows were persecutions from friends and trusted people and strangers. One of His greatest persecutors was the religious leaders of the day. These were men dedicated to God. These were men, whom the Father worked with daily to grow understanding. These should have been friends of Jesus and the message He brought. His message was a fulfillment of thousands of years of promises. These very people turned on the God they worshipped and persecuted Him. We are joined to that persecution when we are joined to Him.
Brian’s Exchange: The exchange was painful. Brian had worked for this company for four years. He had put in countless weekends and nights. Calls came at all hours of the day. Last year, his direct reporting structure had changed. This new vice president was different. During his annual review, Brian had gotten two messages. 1. Prayer has no place at work. 2. You need to be less involved outside of work. The company doesn’t like it.
Why a Problem Now? This had never been a problem before. For years he had been active in the faith community as a volunteer. Now, his personal life was being attacked by his work management. There was nothing active at the work place other than visiting with folks over break and lunch. The attack was devastating. He really had no experience to compare with this. The hardest part was that the organization purported to the public to be linked to a large Southern denomination. To the employees behind the scenes it was something different.
ACT! How do you return blessing for cursing when you are persecuted? Scripture tells us to bless those that persecute us. Have you ever been in the situation of real persecution for your faith? Think of a way to bless those that persecute you for your faith.
PRAY! Father, persecution from anyone is hard. Persecution from those from whom we expect blessing is super hard. How do we survive? How do we handle it? How do we continue in good works even in the middle of the mess? Teach us, Father. Show us the path of Christ. Show us how to reach out and continue to spread the gospel when the environment is hard. Teach us to pray and bless over those that persecute that they might get connected with Christ themselves. Help those that persecute us to have the eyes of their understanding enlightened. Help them to see. Help them to engage love in all they do. Bless them abundantly.
When you are truly persecuted because you represent a higher standard of living and love than another, you can triumph. The kingdom of heaven is about living in love in this world regardless of circumstance.
Matthew 5: 10-12 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “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.
Persecution is a tough concept. Persecution because you represent a higher frame of living than your persecutors is not as common as some think. But it is more common than we want to believe. There are people convicted by their own selfishness that will trap those living in love and service. Love is the higher standard. Service is the higher standard. Reward comes.
Maybe an employer toughens your work and restricts your freedom because you live to a higher standard. It is common. There is no law enforceable against it. It happens. Reward comes.
Persecution does not mean having a hard life. Persecution is specific restriction and abuse. Some persecute because they have been persecuted. They live out their pain against others. Some persecute because they want control. They enslave others to do their bidding. Some persecute out of ignorance and socialization to please another in some warped sense of reality.
Maybe the legal system toughens your expression and strangles your voice because you choose to serve. It is common. The law supports it. Law may not be fair. Reward comes.
Persecution because you represent a higher standard of love and service is what Jesus represents. Sure those that wanted control came against him. Some were just ignorant. Some were serving their own misguided belief systems. But some attacked because Jesus dared to love and serve. They just could not stand to see love and acceptance that was not based on fear and control.
Maybe family sneers and scoffs and questions your motives. It happens. Live and love them anyway. You may have to stand alone. Reward comes.
Jesus stood above His persecutors. That is where the kingdom survives. Persecutors can’t take it away. It is a matter of the heart. The kingdom of love and service survives persecution and lives for another day and hour. The reward comes.
Persecuted? Keep loving. Keep serving. Live through it to the next hour. Tough? You bet it is. The kingdom is in you. There is reward ahead.
Father, what a day in which You have placed us. There are so many sources of power and control that want to restrict and contain love and service. It should not be this way.
But, Father, You know this world acts this way. You have seen nations abuse nations. You see ideals squash love and acceptance. You witness the inhumanity of people against those they cannot understand and do not wish to accept because of a higher law of love that they live in You.
Relieve those that are persecuted for righteousness and those persecuted for love and those persecuted for service. Restore their fortunes and their heart and loose restrictions. Bring reward in this life, Father. Let them see Your hand in this life, Father.
For these specifically persecuted I pray, Father. Release their love and service that they might be a blessing to the rest of us. For that is what these are, Father. They are meant to be a blessing. Release their joy to bless us. Deliver us from such evil. For Yours is the kingdom.