Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The journey of Christian faith is filled with peculiar paradoxes that are quite complexing to human reason, and yet easily understood by those with a spiritual mind and a heart for God. The reality is that believers and followers of Christ can rejoice with inexplicable joy, and yet also grieve and mourn with a lamentation to which the unbelieving mind and heart is lost or resistant to. The believer in Christ has been connected with a source of intense satisfaction capable of meeting every need, and all the while still experiencing the longing and yearning like that of a hungry soul and a thirsty heart.
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
We can worship and sing with great joy in our hearts, and still cry out daily for God in His mercy to intercede in our lives. Many of the experiences in our journey of faith are often painful and perplexing, yet most of us do not regret them nor would we exchange them for all the wealth in the world. These “journey of faith” paradoxes are the foundational evidences that we possess prove that in spite of adversity and great difficulty in this life, we indeed are blessed and favored of God. It is within this paradoxical context that the meaning of the beatitude of Jesus in verses 10-12, should be interpreted and taught.
What serious student of scripture, using basic logic and reasoning would ever conclude that the reviled, the persecuted, marginalized, and defamed are the chosen, the favored and blessed?
Herein is the “big reveal” of human depravity; that the curses of men and the blessings of Christ could in reality descend and converge on one and the same person.
Who would have ever thought that a person could be persecuted and reviled, having all manner of evil spoken against them, all because of seeking to be a good, righteous, and godly human being?
And, do evil and wicked men really hate justice and love those who defame, defraud, and wrong their neighbors?
The answer is NO. They do not dislike righteousness as it respects and affects themselves. But rather, it is only when that nature or character of it which respects and honors God and Christianity that stimulates and ignites their hatred. If Christians were content with limited justice and loving mercy, and would cease walking humbly and righteously with God, we might go through the world, not only in peace, but with approval. but he that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
2 Tim. 3:12-15
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
The great English pastor and missionary Andrew Fuller once said, “The righteous life reproves the ungodliness of men and provokes their resentment.”
Verses 10-12 pair together and construct the last Beatitude of the Sermon on the Mount teaching by Jesus. As a singular pronouncement the verses reveal a double blessing upon a double line of conduct, telling us there is a dual-meaning to be understood. Firstly, verse 10 should be considered as an appendix to all eight beatitudes, describing the experience awaiting those whose character and humility Christ had described and blessed in the previous beatitudes. Secondly, is the recognition that the carnal or earthly mind-set is an irreconcilable enmity against God. For the righteous of God there will never be reparations made or co-exist protocols put in place for reconciling or making peace with evil or the powers and principalities of hell. Did I say NEVER?
For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Here is the reveal of the dual-meaning paradox in verses 10-12.
As true followers Christ the more we allow ourselves to be conformed to the image of Christ, the more we will bring down upon ourselves the spite and hostility of the enemies of the kingdom of God.
This is why Jesus promised twice to bless those who will double down on godly character, and surrender of their will to the righteousness of God. He knew we would need it.
Being “persecuted for righteousness’ sake” means being opposed, marginalized, and attacked because of a right heart and righteous living. Without even using words those who obey the commands and meet the expectations of God as part of their devotion to following believing and Jesus, condemn and expose those who live to please self (narcissism). This representation of God’s Kingdom quickly polarizes their ideology and ignites their hatred. This is real and biblical persecution, and it manifests itself in various forms, from annoyance and social media trolling, taunting, to societal and political oppression and even physical hostility.
Verses 10-12 also contain literary language and contextual meaning that bridges itself to verse 9 the “peace-maker” Beatitude. What stirs the anger of Satan and his demonic forces are the sincere efforts of Christians to be peace-makers. This is a spiritual preparation – to expect that our right heart and righteous life loyalty to Him and His Kingdom will bring trouble and chaos to test and tempt the resolve of our peace-making character and moral compass. We can correctly identify this process of aggression as spiritual warfare and resistance to the evil one.
Evidence for this interpretive conclusion is understood when Jesus says, “for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
It is love and service for God that calls out the fiercest opposition. Not as throwing down a gauntlet issuing ultimatums or boastful challenge but rather as our one and only righteous defense charged fully against the powers and principalities of darkness.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
Newsflash! – we are living in a world that is hostile to Christ, as His cross has once and for all demonstrated. Get up, get dressed, get ready…
In verse 11, Jesus mentions three types of suffering that His disciples and followers should expect to endure in serving and following Him.
One) Reviling – that is, criticism, verbal abuse, and denunciation.
Two) Persecution – this word is a proper rendering of a Greek word dediogmenoi meaning: to pursue with intent or aggression; to systematically organize a process to oppress and harass people; to be mean to’ or ‘to threaten’ or ‘to chase from place to place.
Dediogmenoi may include the sort of handling or hunting down to which Saul of Tarsus viciously used against the Church before he was apprehended by Christ (Acts 8, 9).
Three) Defamation – the defamation of character to which His followers must and will be subjected. This is doubly painful to sensitive temperaments or internalizers, who discover quickly that Satan and his many weapons of evil do not fight fairly or car particularly about your feelings. In fact, your feelings and sensitive internalizing are turned on you as the cruelest of weapons to make you suffer. The words “persecuted for righteousness’ sake” and “for My sake” caution us to make certain that we are opposed and hated solely because we are the followers of the Lord Jesus, and not on account of our own misconduct or injudicious behavior.
1 Pet. 2:19-24
Persecution has always been with God’s people – it comes with the blessing – we gladly deal with it.
Cain slew Abel. “And why did he slay him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” (1 John 3:12) Joseph was persecuted by his own brothers, and sold into slavery in Egypt where he was cast into prison for righteousness’ sake. (Genesis 37, 39)
Moses was repeatedly reviled and broken down (Exodus 5:21; 14:11; 16:2; 17:2).
Samuel was rejected as old man for the sins of his sons. (1 Samuel 8:5).
Elijah was despised for calling out the sin of Ahab and exposing the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, (1 Kings 18:17) and then persecuted. (1 Kings 19:2)
Micaiah was hated for never prophesying what the King wanted to hear. (I Kings 22:8).
Nehemiah was oppressed and defamed. (Nehemiah 4)
Jesus Himself, the faithful Witness of God, was put to death by the people to whom He had loved and ministered.
Stephen was stoned. (Acts 7)
Peter and John were cast into prison.
James beheaded, while the entire course of the Apostle
Paul’s final years of life and ministry were one long series of bitter and relentless persecutions, beatings, imprisonments, and rejections.
You can prepare for any of this by giving your all to Him and thereby gaining everything from Him. We will walk forward in Christ alone having received the greatest Blessing of our life. We stand in Him, and we walk forward into and through the valley of the shadow of death; and yet we fear no evil, for He our God is with us.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
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