If you abide in Me and My word abides in you, then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.
We’ve discussed the first seven Beatitudes. Now it’s time to take a look at number eight. The New American Standard Bible renders Matthew 5:10 as “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The other standard translations offer no substantive difference.
Do you detect a difference between this Beatitude and the others? Its wording is strangely at odds with the first seven. They all list direct characteristics of the Christian. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the meek. Specific characteristics of a person walking a Christian walk.
This one, on the other hand, lists an indirect characteristic. It talks about external things that happen to the person who walks the Christian walk rather than enumerating a trait of that Christian.
If I say you are right-handed or you have red hair or you are a teachable person, I’m describing traits you have—traits that define you as a person. If, on the other hand, I say because of who you are, you are going to sail through life having an easy time, I’m talking about something that will happen to you rather than a trait the defines you.
That’s what Jesus does in this verse. Let’s turn the statement around for a moment. From His statement, it would be fair to say, those to whom the kingdom of heaven belongs will be persecuted.
And to whom does the kingdom of heaven belong? To born-again Christians. This is a reasonable exegesis, because Jesus said that those who believe on Him would be born again and that they would attain heaven.
So what are we saying here. Are we saying that Jesus promises us if we’re Christians we will be persecuted? What kind of a promise is that? Our reward for doing something right, for trusting Jesus, is a hard time?
Yep. That’s exactly what we’re saying here. But is that a bad deal? We’re trading a little temporary discomfort during the brief time we walk this earth for an eternity in heaven with Jesus. That makes it sound a little better.
Okay, persecution is not necessarily just a little temporary discomfort. People in various parts of the world at various times in history have been put to death for being Christians. Most of the disciples died horrible deaths because of their faith. That’s not a little discomfort, David.
You’re right. It’s not. But martyrs throughout history have considered it worthwhile to give up their lives for the Gospel. To trade whatever pain and suffering they endured for the eternal life Jesus promised them. And few of us endure that level of persecution.
For most of us, persecution means being left out of the in-group at work, or maybe being passed over for a promotion. Losing an account we were trying to sell. Real persecution, but hardly rising to the level of true pain and suffering.
What do you think of this promise of persecution?
What sort of persecution have you suffered for your Christianity?
David N. Walker is a Christian father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years as a health insurance agent. Most of that career was spent in Texas, but for a few years he traveled many other states. He started writing about 20 years ago, and has six unpublished novels to use as primers on how NOT to write fiction. He is currently putting the finishing touches on his non-fiction Web Wisdom: Godly Thoughts and Inspiration from the Inbox and starting his new fiction work—a series of novellas set during the period from 1860 to 1880.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me at @davidnwalkertx