Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. –Matthew 5:10
Meaning of Word ‘Persecuted’:
To be pursued, follow after, suffer, chase after, to run after with hostile intent, to hunt. Persecution and all the variations of this word are used in the bible approx. 76 times. The word has a strong meaning of being followed or chased after. It is like a continuous, ruthless chase to hunt down the prey!
Bible Verses about Approach to Persecution:
- 1 Peter 3:13-14 – “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.”
- 1 Peter 4:12-14,16,19 – “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you…However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name….So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”
- Phil 3:10-11 – “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
- Romans 8:18 – “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
This last beatitude is the most striking and contradictory of all the beatitudes. For how can you rejoice or be blessed, when you are going through insult, persecution, suffering, even death for doing good or right? Yet, Jesus very clearly proclaims ‘blessedness’ for those who are being persecuted for the sake of righteousness. He also mentions similar message in Matthew 10:16-28.
For the first century Christians, persecution was a norm rather than an exception. Peter and Paul, the first apostles to Jews and gentiles, also reiterate and often desire for sharing and participating in suffering with/for Christ. (check out bible references below) It should be noted that it is not in the suffering or pain, we rejoice, but it is in the hope of God’s glory to be revealed. (There are some who like to be sad, who somehow enjoys in their pain!) We, Christians however, rejoice in their suffering for the righteousness, due to the fact that we participate in suffering of Christ, that we bear his name, and that we will be overjoyed when Christ’ glory will be revealed in us. It is our privilege to suffer with Christ. It is not the suffering, but the Cause that makes a Martyr.
People may say that this is absolutely absurd. yet, we all believe in a idea of pain and suffering for future joy. A good example of this is a ‘child-birth’. Mother goes through immense pain and struggle, with pain intensifies as the time comes nearer. For her, the present pain is not worth comparing with the joy she will experience in her child. Nobody finds it strange, in fact, women long and desire motherhood. Her focus is not on the suffering, but the joy that her child will bring.
We find it difficult to grasp rejoicing in suffering because we have not seen the complete picture. Even among many Christians, there is a growing tendency to focus on earthly blessings. (It is not to say that one should not desire good in this life.) But Jesus (and first disciples) always focused on future hope and glory. There are parts of the world, where people are being persecuted for Christ. For them, following Christ means suffering, rejection and even death. They are blessed or privileged to share in suffering with Christ.
We may not go through physical persecution or suffering, but we all feel constantly chased after by the enemy of Christ. When we pursue righteousness, we may be constantly running or fleeing from the spiritual forces, who are after us to knock us down.
The Promise–Blessed Hope:
However, this is not the end. Jesus offers those who are persecuted for his name, the inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven. At present, we don’t see it, yet we believe in it and we rejoice in that hope and future. (Romans 8:24) Paul rightly say that our present sufferings are not even worth comparing with the glory that will be manifested when Christ will return.
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
born of his Spirit, washed in his blood.
Perfect submission, all is at rest;
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
watching and waiting, looking above,
filled with his goodness, lost in his love.
This is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long;
this is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long.