Earlier this month a high school valedictorian ripped up his approved speech and then proceeded to recite the Lord’s Prayer in spite of the school district’s ban on prayer. The response was . . . overwhelming. You can watch it here:
Whether you think Roy Costner IV’s actions were right or wrong, you’ve gotta admit it was gutsy. He didn’t know if people would cheer or physically remove him from the stage or worse.
Which brings us to Jesus’ final—and possibly most mind-blowing—beatitude yet:
"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" (Matt. 5:10–12).
Let’s break this beatitude down . . .
What It Means to Be Persecuted
"Blessed are those who are persecuted."
To be persecuted means to be pursued, but not the kind of pursuit you want from that cute guy in geometry class. This kind of pursuit is a relentless pestering, abusing, attacking. There seem to be two kinds: verbal persecution and physical persecution (Heb. 11:36).
Right—and Wrong—Reasons for Persecution
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake."
Sorry, but you won’t be blessed if you’re being persecuted for "talking smack" or acting foolishly. In Dorothy Patterson’s words, "To offend the world, you do not have to be unwise in your choices or obnoxious in living your Christian faith. Just to be like Christ will bring persecution."
Why We Can Actually Look Forward to Persecution
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. . . . Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven."
No one I know wants to be mocked or hated or tortured or killed. But Jesus—who was mocked and hated and tortured and killed so you and I might be saved from God’s wrath against our sin—promises us incredible reward to come when we suffer for Him. Not here and now, but for forever. And He would know, because He led the way:
"For the joy that was set before him [Jesus] endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:2, emphasis added).
The crowds won’t always respond like they did this month to Roy Costner IV’s graduation speech. In fact, Jesus tells us to expect just the opposite. Philippians 1:29 tells us salvation and suffering go together—they’re a package deal:
"It has been granted [gifted] to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake."
So let’s get ready to suffer together for Him. Stay tuned to the blog as we talk more about persecution. And let us know . . . is all this persecution talk new to you? Have you ever been persecuted for righteousness’ sake—verbally or physically?
(Read the first beatitude in this series here.)