Many people are persecuted for a host of different reasons. It has been like this since man was banished from the Garden and it continues today. In 2020 the “World Watch List” provided an assessment of 50 countries where Christianity faces the most severe types of persecution. At the very top of the list where the most extreme levels of persecution taking place in North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Eritrea, Sudan, Yemen, Iran, India and Syria.
Today in 2022, there are all sorts of alleged persecution from rape to murder in captured facilities in the Ukraine by the Russians. Many are left homeless, without families, injured, penniless, foodless and hopeless. In general, persecution is seen in murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and many other inhumane acts done against civilians. Common grounds for persecution today will be political, racial, family and religious grounds. For many, persecution includes the confiscation of land and property, the destruction of property, incitement of hatred, arrests, imprisonment, beatings, torture, murder, executions and divorce. We must not think that persecutions have ended with the end of Apartheid and in camps where people were exiled. Just over the border in a neighboring country the ruling party has a notorious prison where opposition activists are persecution most gruesomely. Often persecution is conducted to induce painful emotional, psychological and even physical suffering. Where many of these acts of persecution are levelled against people from all religious, political, cultural and ethnic backgrounds, the eighth Beatitude relates to Christians exclusively!
Mt 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Remember our journey … “blessed” means we may be happy because our Lord congratulates us for being aware of the terrible sinful condition we find ourselves in and seek passionately to do something about it. That is the flow from the first to the last Beatitude.
1) The meaning of persecuted. It includes being harassed, troubled, molested and persecuted. All of the dreadful emotions, pain and suffering, both mentally and physically are part of this persecution. This Beatitude refers to being persecuted for our faith. The words “because of” mean “on account of” or “for the sake of” our faith. That is because we are Christian. An excellent example comes from Paul writing to Timothy:
2Ti 3:10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
Verse 11 makes reference to “persecutions, sufferings” and “what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured.” Then he writes that … everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. God wants you to be “godly” … holy, blameless and Christ-like. These prove salvation … so the “everyone who wants to live a godly life” really means you must live a godly life and you will be persecuted for your faith (intentional, demonstrative Christianity)! Then, in verse 13 we read that the persecution and pressure will increase … not abate.
2) We are not alone in persecution.
(1) God warned the Israelites through Moses that they would be persecuted:
Deut 30:7 The LORD your God will put all these curses on your enemies who hate and persecute you.
(2) King David was persecuted without cause and by rulers:
Ps 119:86 help me, for men persecute me without cause
Ps 119:161 Rulers persecute me without cause.
(3) Christians were and would be persecuted …
(a) The Church
Ac 8:1 On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.
(b) Paul and Silas
Ac 13:50 But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.
(c) Christians because of the Word of God and many will prove they were not Christians
Mat 13:21 But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.
3) Persecution is because of righteousness. We have said it’s because of our faith. Our faith is realized in living a righteous life. We have explored this word before. It means … integrity, virtue, purity of life, uprightness and correct thinking, feeling and doing. God is the source of righteousness. He displayed this in His precious Son, our Lord Jesus. Whatever He did, his did in perfect righteousness. You will recall how He called out those responsible for educating the Jews in Scripture. If you have time, read the context.
Mat 5:20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Damnation is because of failure to know and uphold the Commandments. The spiritual leaders taught the Law but cheated in personal application. Even if we tried, we can’t keep them but Jesus kept them for us. Therefore to mention it again, we believers are positionally righteous because Jesus righteousness is credited to our account. In practice we need to strive for righteousness. We stand up to against God’s name being used sinfully. We seek to uphold Biblical ethics and morality. We stand against all forms of prejudice, discrimination and hurtful acts against all people. We stand against all evil and wickedness, irrespective where it comes from. We stand on the Gospel as the only means of salvation and share it as much as we can. We love the Bible and use it as much as possible. We refuse dodgy and underhanded practices. For these things we are persecuted. Because we are fitted for the Kingdom of Heaven, under its rule now and eternally in the future, we persevere.
Thank You Lord, that we may be persecuted for Your Cause in Jesus. Amen.