Happy are the Persecuted – May 21, 2021

As we work through the beatitudes, the last one seems the most contradictory to human experience. “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” (Matthew 5:11-12). The believer finds happiness and satisfaction in the middle of persecution. There are several important notes we must make to understand this properly.

First, we must understand what persecution is. Today in America we don’t necessarily understand the idea of persecution. We face being reviled and mocked for our faith. We face what one man described as “the persecution of the raised eyebrow.” But we have not faced imprisonment, torture, death, or loss for our faith. Our dear brothers and sisters in Christ around the world are facing this as we speak. We are not. But make no mistake. It appears that persecution is in our future. If not for us, then certainly for our children.

Second, this persecution is for our faith. Mask wearing, vaccine debates, stay at home orders, etc. are not what this text is speaking about. Christ is speaking about Christians being targeted for the sole reason that they are Christians and follow Christ. Christ stated that this persecution is on my account. The world hates Christ and the truth of the Gospel. The world will seek to snuff it out. This is the persecution of which Christ speaks.

Third, this persecution is unjust. They will utter all kinds of evil against you falsely. This persecution which leads to joy is only promised if it is unjust. Peter puts it this way, For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God” (1 Peter 2:20). Facing the consequences of disobedience to God’s Word is not persecution. Facing the consequences for being a jerk is not persecution. Facing unjust suffering because you are a believer is persecution.

Fourth, we can rejoice in this persecution when it does come because we are standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. We are declaring God’s glory to the lost world. And our reward in heaven is great. History demonstrates that the gospel advances through persecution. While we don’t long for it, invite it, or look for it, we need not fear persecution. We can be happy as we suffer for the cause of Christ and reveal Him to be as good as He really is.