To the Persecuted

Matthew 5: 11-12 (NRSV)

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

This beatitude sounds familiar because it sort of combines previous beatitudes.  The fourth beatitude blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for, they will be filled.  And the first beatitude Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  And if you’ve read ahead a little, the next beatitude also blesses the persecuted and reviled. 

In the context of the beatitudes, righteousness means to be in right relationship with God and others.  It’s about holiness and social justice.  And as children of God, we will always be attending to our relationship with God and our neighbors.  Because that’s how we live in the kin-dom of heaven now and always.  

Blessing those persecuted for their righteousness could also sound like: Blessed are those who are treated badly when they are following Jesus, when they believe his words and live their lives according to his teachings.  Blessed are those who live and act differently, working for the kin-dom of God on earth.  

Other people will not understand.  They won’t understand and they will persecute those who are acting in the best interest of their neighbors and not themselves.  But those, living according to their beliefs, loving their neighbors with prayers and actions, are being persecuted for working in the kin-dom of God, are blessed.  

We can think of the other beatitudes as beliefs and actions of the children of God for which people will misunderstand and persecute them.  

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are the meek, the oppressed, the downtrodden.  Blessed are those who have been trampled by the world, for theirs is the kin-dom of God.  The kin-dom of God reverses the outcome we expect.  The lowly will be exalted, and the mighty will be brought low.  

We who believe will show bias towards the poor.  To work for their well-being and provide for their needs.  In the kin-dom of God, we are all equals, and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. 

And others will think we are crazy in this world where people expect to look out only for their own interests.  

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Jesus does not promise that we will not feel sorrow and grief.  The promise is that we won’t be alone.  That Jesus has entered into human suffering and will never abandon us.  Being Christian does not mean that we will never experience pain, grief, or sadness, but that no matter what we are never alone. 

We who believe will not be afraid of being with those who are full of sorrow and grief.  We will not see these things as spiritual failings but as part of the human experience.  We will not abandon our neighbors in their time of need.

And others will think we are wasting our time sitting with the grieving when it would be easier to leave them and not feel their pain.  

But we know that God is present for and with us even when we suffer.  So, we as believers will be present for each other as a reminder of God’s love in our community.  

Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are the meek, the ones who have been taken advantage of, the overworked, the marginalized.  

We who believe Jesus’ words will stand with those who are being trampled.  We understand that these are our siblings in Christ, and they deserve clean air and water, medical care, and safe places to live just as much as anyone else.  

In a world where some people are treated as less valuable than others, we will seem counter cultural for wanting the best for our neighbors.  

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for right relationship with God and others.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for holiness and social justice.  They will be filled, they will experience this in the kin-dom of God.  And as children of God, we will always be attending to our relationship with God and our neighbors. 

And people won’t understand when we work for what is right and just instead of what is in our own best interests.  

Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

We are all able to give and receive mercy. Even when we are broken and in need we are still invited into the ministry of Jesus, the work of God’s children to show mercy, kindness, and love.  Through us, even in our brokenness, God can bring love, healing, and wholeness into the world.  

We don’t need to be perfect to be children of God.  We don’t need to be perfect to love each other.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

The pure in heart are those whose inner thoughts and outward actions are aligned in their single intention of doing God’s will. They will see God in everyone and everything around them.  

And others will not understand why they treat every creature they meet with holy reverence.  

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, who are struggling to find peace, and who work for it even when others would tell them it’s a hopeless lost cause.  

Jesus said, 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

This is the beatitude we are focused on today.  Those who are seeking after righteousness, holiness, and social justice, who are attending to their relationships with God and others, who are doing the work of the children of God, will be persecuted.  Because the beatitudes do not make sense to our sin sick word.  So, if you intend to do God’s will in your heart and with your actions, don’t expect thanks and praise, expect to be persecuted.  Friends, doing God’s work isn’t easy, which is why we gather together as a church community for support and love.   We worship together to remember that we are God’s children, and we are in this work together.  Thanks be to God.

photo credit: yellow bird art and design (found on Pinterest)

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