After Jesus assures the persecuted righteous that they are blessed in Matthew 5:10, he goes on to define or describe them in verse 11: "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake."
It's crucial to recognize, first of all, that Jesus is only describing those who suffer for Christ's sake.There is no blessing to the zealot of a false religion, to those who simply don't get along with other people, or even the Christian who offends people (even with the truth) by unkind or inconsiderate words.
This beatitude is specifically and only for those who are persecuted/suffering for the sake of Christ, not just some personal vendetta or agenda.
Second, it is interesting and enlightening to notice that there is nothing in Jesus' description about being burned at the stake, chased out of your home, or thrown in prison. Rather, he couches suffering in terms of being reviled (insulted, rejected, despised, reprimanded) and having bad things saidof you for Christ’s sake.
Jesus describes the persecuted in terms, not so much of physical affliction, but of words spoken against them and of a general rejection of them.
Do we think there’s something unique about our culture or generation, that the greatest deterrent to living and speaking publicly for Christ is what others will think and say? Certainly not!
We perhaps, then, see these persecuted righteous best through their opposite: if being persecuted for righteousness’ sake means being insulted or rejected for Christ’s sake, then its opposite is being accepted, popular, enjoyed because we are not speaking and living publicly for Christ! When we consider the issue through this lens, we can suddenly see how applicable it is, and how far short we fall.
Suddenly the beatitude that perhaps seemed least applicable is the most searching and convicting of them all! Am I truly hungering after righteousness? Then it will be evidenced in rejection for righteousness’ sake. Have I been passed up for promotion, or had to stick out awkwardly at a social event, or been ostracized by my neighbors, or received odd looks for what I won’t let my children do -- for Christ's sake?
The point is not just to make us feel guilty, but to realize we are either trusting in the approval and acceptance of others or we are trusting in Christ’s promise: “you are blessed if insulted for me!”
So anytime I avoid speaking well of Christ, or go along with the crowd in ungodliness -- in order to fit in or not be rejected -- I am disbelieving Christ’s assurance that it is a greater blessing/happiness to be reviled for Christ’ sake than it is to fit in for my own sake.
We must realize that we cannot excuse ourselves from this beatitude by just saying, “Thank God we don’t live in a country that persecutes Christians.” Every country, in every generation, has persecuted Christians when those Christians are boldly speaking well of Christ and living out his Word. Are you?
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