Persecuted For Doing Good
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” vs. 10
“Sorry King, You Can’t Do That”
JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, a godly leader in the 4th century church preached so strongly against sin that he offended the empress Eudoxia as well as many church officials. When summoned before Emperor Arcadius, Chrysostom was threatened:
o “I will banishment you if you do not cease his preaching.” He responded, “Sire, you cannot banish me, for the world is my Father’s house.”
o “Then I will slay you.” Arcadius said. “Nay, but you cannot, for my life is hid with Christ in God.”
o “Your treasures will be confiscated” John replied, “Sire, that cannot be either. My treasures are in heaven, where non can break and steal.”
o “Then I will drive you from man and you will have no friends left! “ “That you cannot do, either, for I have a Friend in heaven who has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.”
Chrysostom was banished, first to Armenia and then farther away to Pityus on the Black Sea, to which he never arrived because he died on the way. His last words are said to have been, “δόξα τῷ θεῷ πάντων ἕνεκεν” (Glory be to God for all things). But neither his banishment nor his death disproved or diminished his claims. The things he valued most highly not even an emperor could take away from him.
Could you respond the way John did? Is your faith strong enough to take a stand like that and do it with that kind f conviction? I mean, he is definitely taking the high road and it might be good for us to challenge ourselves that when push comes to shove can we also take the high road? Our continuing study of the beatitudes addresses this in matthew 5:10. If you are able, please stand as we read Matthew 5:1-10.
Read Passage – Matthew 5:1-10
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them. He said:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Verse 10, more than any of the others in the beatitudes can be a bit puzzling. I think it is a paradox. Do you know what that is? A paradox is something that is made up of two opposite things and that seems impossible but is actually true or possible.
Ex. “War is peace.” “Freedom is slavery.” “Ignorance is strength.”
So Jesus says in verse 10:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted…” vs. 10a
How can the persecuted be blessed? Can you even imagine someone saying, “I’m so happy people are picking on me and beating me up” and actually mean what they are saying!? No one likes to be picked on or abused and is happy about it. So this beatitude challenges us to consider our view of standing up for what we really believe and the willingness to stand strong in the opposition of our beliefs.
The Two Sides of Persecution
The reality of the situation for the Israelites was they were facing two types of persecution.
The Israelites were living in the shadow of the Romans and subject to the Roman law and Roman ways and could and would be persecuted and killed at a moment’s notice. They had no right to retaliate or to fight back. Retaliation usually resulted in death.
Ex. Jesus being tortured by the Roman soldiers before his crucifixion, blindfolded, beaten, the crown of thorns, etc.
Sadly the religious leaders were persecuting in the name of their self-righteousness, those who stood for true righteousness. The religious leaders had a certain amount of power and authority and they could kick you out of the temple or even punish you for not following their laws.
Ex. The blind man healed by Jesus and they call his parents in to testify about it. The passage in John 9 tells us they didn’t want to upset the Pharisee’s and affirm who Jesus was and what he had done because they could get kicked out of the temple.
So they were pressured and persecuted by the very people that were supposed to protect them and give them religious guidance.
The Truth About Persecution
So why does Jesus put this one in the beatitudes? What is it that is so important about knowing the truth about being persecuted for righteousness? We will look at three things that help us understand this verse and the truth about persecution.
CAUTION: What The Passage Does Not Say
But first…let look at what the passage does not say:
Blessed are the pushy and the obnoxious
Or…blessed are those who push other peoples buttons, etc.
Or…blessed are those who are inconsiderate and rude
These types of people may be persecuted but it’s a persecution they bring on themselves. They are acting in ways that people will retaliate. They claim to be the victim but they have actually caused the situation to happen.
But let’s first look at what Jesus meant when he said this word “persecution.” The word persecution has several different meanings:
1. Persecution means to pursue as an enemy.
2. Persecution means to oppress because of one’s belief.
3. Persecution also means, to press in on.
• It’s Not Really About You
So here is the truth about being persecuted because of righteousness. First, it’s not really about you. It’s not. It’s is being done to you but it’s not directed at you really. The righteousness that Jesus mentions here is when we are acting in a manner that is promoting or living out the values and ethics of God. It’s not just that you are being a goody two shoes and therefore people are picking on you. No, it’s when you stand up for the values of God and upholding his ways and you are being pursued or oppressed because of that. In John 15 Jesus is talking to his disciples and her tells them this in verse 18:
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” John 15:18
This is not just a statement that sounds good and is meant to make you feel good. No, this is promise that the world hates Jesus and if it hated him, it will definitely hate you. This is because you are living like Jesus and the world sees that.
• It’s Done In Ignorance of God
A second reality about being persecuted for righteousness is that it is being done in ignorance of God and who he is and what he really wants for us. Many times people persecute Chrisitans because they hold tightly to Godly values but the ones doing the persecution have never taken the time to understand God and to really understand what He stands for. Jesus also talked about this in John 16:3 where he says:
“They will do such things because they have not known my Father or Me.” John 16:3
And there is the time when Jesus is on the cross and he says in Luke 23:34:
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
Ex. An example of this is the idea of love. God loves everyone and he wants us to love everyone. In 1 John 3 and 4 we are told that we should be known for our love. But many people in the world say Christians are haters and uncaring. Usually this comes when they feel they are being told they “can’t” do something. They look at a boundary or law as a restriction and they term that as Christians being intolerant or haters. No, God gives us boundaries and laws for our good.
Ill. Speed limits on a street; it is meant to keep things safe and for things to run smoothly. Because there is a speed limit on Buchanan Rd. doesn’t mean that Antioch hates you. No, it there for your good but people make that same conclusion about God and his ways.
• Your Goodness Can Be Convicting
And finally, a third point about being persecuted for righteousness is that when you are acting in righteousness, it will be convicting to people who don’t live that same way. Let me give you a verse that helps understand this principle; Proverbs 25:21-22:
“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.”
What did Solomon mean by this? What the is saying is that when your enemy is in need and you take the high road, you give him something to eat or drink when he needs it, it convicts him because it wakes him up. Heaping burning coals on his head is that idea that he gets that wake -up call that says he is being selfish, self-centered, and not acting in a bigger picture outside of himself. That can be oppressive and hurtful.
Our Response To Persecution
So, what should our response to persecution be? I see it unfold in three ways.
Reliance On God
First, it should drive us right back to our reliance on God to sustain us and carry us through any situation even if it doesn’t go the way we want. Relying on him is showing that we trust him and his ways.
Second, we are not meant to fight back and take revenge. I am not saying we shouldn’t protect ourselves, that is different than revenge. Revenge is getting back at them or trying to get even. God tells us that revenge is his business not ours. Revenge is mine says the Lord.
Lots of Prayer
And third, our response needs to be lots of prayer. Not just prayer for ourselves, prayer for all those around the world who are being persecuted for living our God’s Word and God’s ways and living our righteousness.
Temporary Troubles, Long-Term Bliss
A wonderful promise comes to us at the end of verse 10:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Vs. 10
Let me add to that another verse that helps put this promise into perspective. We have the promise of the kingdom of heaven but we still face persecution. The thing is our struggles and persecution are temporary but the kingdom of heaven is long-term; 2 Cor. 4:17:
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Cor. 4:17
The promise to be enjoyed all who endure persecution will be rewarded. It is a promise made only to those who suffer for righteousness’ sake and who are spoken against falsely for Christ’s sake. This is a threefold promise.
A. It is a present promise. Even in the midst of persecution you can enjoy this promise. It is for the here and now. When believers must suffer because of their faith, they have discovered the way to experience the closest possible companionship with God. The promise that “theirs is the kingdom of heaven” becomes a reality.
B. It is a future promise.
C. It is a perennial promise. This is a promise of being identified with God’s chosen people, a promise that is realized both in the present and in the future. To suffer persecution is to walk the same road as the prophets and martyrs. To suffer for what is right is to be part of a great succession.
George Bernard Shaw said that the finest compliment the world can pay any author is to burn his books, thus showing that his books are so dynamic and explosive as to be considered intolerable. And the finest compliment that can be paid to Christians is persecution because of righteousness, for then they have been identified with God’s choicest people.