"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."- Jesus (Matthew 5:10)
Persecuted, can be defined as: Being subjected to hostility or ill-treatment.
Righteousness, can be defined as: Adhering to moral principles.
In the above verse Jesus is basically saying: Blessed are those who because of adherence to (my) moral principles, are subjected to hostility and/or ill-treatment. In the world we live in we are constantly expected to "fit in". By following Jesus and his moral principles, however, we will often find ourselves NOT fitting in with those around us. This often leads to persecution. Whether physical or verbal, persecution can and will come to those who are different.
What are some of the ways in which we may look or act different than others? In the previous verses of Matthew 5, Jesus lists 7 other traits or mindsets, followed by a natural blessing for each. Let's look at a couple:
Blessed are the meek (Quiet, gentle, and easily imposed on)
Blessed are the merciful ( those who give mercy)
Blessed are the peacemakers (those who seek peace through sharing God's love)
Are either of these 3 attributes normally praised in our society today? How about in the church? Do we as the body of Christ seek to be meek, merciful, peacemaking people? To the extent that we do, we will look different. We will look different than the rest of the world. We will look different than alot of the Western, nationalistic,moral guardian, control-seeking church we find ourselves in today. But that's ok. If by following Jesus, we look, act and believe different than the world (and oftentimes church) around us, and as a result are treated with distance and hostility, we can be confident we are on the right track.
Jesus said in John 15:20, "Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also."
So, there are two responses others will have when confronted by our Jesus-like lifestyle. They will either persecute us (because they persecuted Jesus as well), or they will accept and obey Jesus' teaching. Let us not be afraid of looking, acting, and believing differently than others, because of our commitment to following Jesus. We can be confident that when we find ourselves in the midst of persecution, (however and by whoever it is manifested towards us) we are on the right track.
My challenge to you is to examine your life. Are there areas where you are holding back from following Jesus for fear of persecution? Pray that God will give you the desire to follow him without fear of persecution. Pray that through His Spirit you will have the strength to be the different, counter-cultural, anti-religion-pro-relationship, disciple that he calls you to be.
Are you currently being persecuted (singled out, picked on, joked about, ignored, abused) because of your different lifestyle and beliefs? Amen ! You are on the right track. You are blessed, and "yours is the kingdom of heaven" !