The new you… persecuted!
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)
No one likes to hurt. No one wants to welcome any kind of suffering. Let alone, open yourself up to pain and ridicule willingly.
I can only imagine the looks on the disciples’ faces when Jesus mentioned this beatitude. And the thoughts that must have been in their minds… “Persecution… pain, suffering, scorn, rejection… great! I’m not sure I want to sign up for this!”
That may very well be why this beatitude is the only one to include extra comments from the Master: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.” (5:11-12)
Our natural tendency is to run from persecution. Hide ourselves away from things that hurt us. Avoid any situation that may bring us pain or ridicule. Remain in the background – play it safe…
But all these things are part of the old nature – the old you that prefers self-preservation to truth proclamation. And that is exactly Jesus’ point. If we see persecution as a terrible and dreadful thing, we will do most anything to avoid it. Including compromising our commitment to God and His ways. When the time comes to make a stand, we will eagerly seek for a seat on the sidelines. Away from the action. Away from all danger.
What Jesus is saying about the new you is a bit shocking. He is telling us that the new you relishes the opportunity to take a stand, as light in the utter darkness. And if darkness fights back (which it will!) you will have aligned yourself with all those who have taken a stand to be God-pleasers, throughout human history. Our courage, in the midst of certain resistance, gains the reward of Heaven’s favor – and forces those who witness our courage to consider the path of their own souls.
Jesus’ point: Celebrate persecution. Rejoice in it. For it is the evidence that your life is now making a difference. You have left behind the safety of the sidelines and entered the field of battle – where the Almighty will stand with you, and pour out His grace upon you, and through you.
The new you wants to be unleashed. It wants to step to the forefront and begin seeing the difference that a life fully submitted to God, and His ways, can be. Our comfort and safety tell us nothing. Life lived in the crowd offers us nothing special.
But a life lived in the fullness of God’s truth, matters.
To God… and to the world He is trying to reach.
Prayer focus: God, help me to step out of my safety and live for Your truth… fully!