Today: Thursday, November 21, 2019

Beatitudes #8: Blessed are the persecuted    (9/7/2008 1)

'Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'

As we come to the last in our series on the beatitudes, I'm tempted to ask: do you have a favourite? I don't think there will be many takers for this one!

Let's bear in mind: to be blessed is to be touched by God in some way.

Recently, I was telling a friend that my little dog Charlie, a King Charles spaniel, stood up to a large Irish setter which was intent on lifting its leg on Charlie's territory. ‘Aw, bless,' said my friend fondly. As in, 'a brave effort in difficult circumstances.'

Looking at the other seven beatitudes, how many of them could you say ‘Aw, bless' about?

The poor in spirit... Aw, bless; Those who mourn... Aw, bless; The meek... Aw bless; Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness... Aw, bless; The merciful... Aw, bless; The pure in heart... Aw, bless. The peacemakers…Aw, bless ; Those who are persecuted…? No thanks!

I'd love to ask Jesus why he finished off this set of ‘blessedness' with ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.' I wonder—was it because he knew Christians down the generations would be persecuted for standing up for him?

It does happen: there is persecution for righteousness. The fact is, more people have been persecuted for righteousness in the last 100 years than all the Christian martyrs of the last 1900 years.

In London's Westminster Abbey, no fewer than ten statues have been sculptured to commemorate 20th-century Christians who lost their lives in a stand for righteousness; persecution still happens. Allegedly, China doesn't just punch her weight in the Olympics; persecution still happens. Christians in North Korea will not bow to portraits of Kim II Sung; persecution still happens. Just the mention of some countries—let's say, Burma , Zimbabwe and Indonesia—and you'll be reminded that persecution still happens.

But that may all be far away from some of us. Closer to home, a student is ridiculed for speaking positively about Jesus. An employee is suspended for wearing a cross around her neck. A Christian girl is teased for her determination to remain a virgin until marriage. Persecution for righteousness still happens.

Maybe Charlie the spaniel can teach us a lesson. He was standing up for his territory; Jesus calls us to stand up for his territory—for righteousness: what is right, good and just. And there is a lot of ‘unrighteousness' around.

To be a Christian is not an easy option—but it is an easy choice. It is a choice that will give you a fulfilment and a purpose in life; a purpose you will find no other way. It is a choice which secures your eternal destiny: eternal life.

Those who are persecuted by the kingdoms of this world are ambassadors of—and at home in—another Kingdom. There is an ultimate ruler, and an ultimate truth. Worth standing for; worth witnessing to.

To be blessed is to be touched by Jesus Christ. What an honour, to be touched by Jesus because you stand up for him…! Even if it may result in persecution.

Pray: Lord of light and love, one candle can dispel the darkness. By our lives, help us to bring your light into the darkness. May we know your guiding presence in our times of persecution, and help us to stand up for righteousness, through Christ, the light of the world. Amen.

Think about: Notice that Jesus repeats this beatitude in Matthew [NT] verse 11, and develops it in verse 12 into a heavenly dimension.

Challenge: In this beatitude, Jesus doesn't suggest complaining. How do you deal with persecution? Complain, run from it, or stand firm? Read the book of James [NT], chapter 1, verses 2 and 3, for some tips!

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