In the eighth and final beatitude, Jesus shares these shocking words:
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5.10-12).
The Scriptures are rather clear: when we embrace the way of the Master and really try to live out the beatitudes, the result is that we will experience persecution. The apostle Paul, no stranger to persecution, wrote to young Timothy,
You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 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. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3.10-13)
Everyone who wants to live a godly life, everyone who wants to be poor in spirit, meek, merciful, and hungry for righteousness will be persecuted in the very same way the prophets of the Old Testament were persecuted. To persecute means “to make to run or flee, put to flight, drive away; to harass, trouble, or molest in any way.” This is what awaits everyone who desires to live a godly life.
How in the world can that be a “blessing”? Please join me in praying that the Lord will open the eyes of our hearts that we might see the blessing of being persecuted because of our affiliation with Christ.