The eighth and final of the Beatitudes is one but in two parts. Twice the blessing is pronounced. Part one this week.
From the poverty of spirit to the persecuted we gain a perspective from Jesus on belonging to the Kingdom of Heaven. Unlike such qualities as meekness, mercy, purity and peacemaking that are wholesome and appealing and to which we are called to seek more and more, persecution comes into another category. Persecution is not something to be chased, to seek out or to long for. Rather, it is shown to be inevitable because of the previous Beatitudes. It comes last of all because the Kingdom of God is at loggerheads with the kingdoms of this world- the world outside of Christ and the devil are actively opposed. So the Christian within the Kingdom of God comes face to face in a spiritual battle (Ephesians 610-20).
Peacemaking and persecution also may appear to be at loggerheads but this is not a contradiction: for Jesus is ‘Prince of Peace’ and at the same time he says, “I have not come to bring peace but a sword…..” (Matthew 10:34); the meaning here is that Jesus continually divided opinion, “The Jews who heard these words were again divided…..” (John 10:19). as Jesus divided opinion so too the Christian who comes in the name of Jesus.
A key point to this Beatitude is that persecution is because of Righteousness –the net result of simply being a Christian according to Jesus. Jesus came to make peace, and bring peace to the whole world, but without compromise to the truth. The Christian may well avoid persecution by compromising righteousness.
It all began back in the beginning with Cain and his brother Abel. Cain was jealous of his brother’s right behaviour before God so he killed him (Gen 43-8). The suffering of God’s own is dominant in the Old Testament and in the New, “…….conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ….without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” (Phil 1:27-30)
A point to remember is that being opposed for my faith is because of righteousness and not silly, unwise or foolish behaviour or provocation. Another key point is we need to follow back through the previous seven Beatitudes for it is the net result of all seven that equips the Christian to be in that place of righteousness, that finds opposition.
‘Because of righteousness’ needs further consideration in terms of Christian opposing Christian within the church. (Untruth and bad behaviour need to be called out) But righteousness can be seen differently in what the apostle Paul calls “Disputable matters” (see I Cor 14:1-23)- as Paul concludes, Christians can find themselves standing their ground and judging fellow Christians that prove to be neither right nor wrong in Righteousness but just different. The persecution Jesus is speaking of is a Righteousness that is uncompromising to the Gospel. Courage is called for in being a Christian. To stand for Christ and not be afraid to say, “I am a Christian- I believe in Jesus Christ and the Bible as the Word of God……”
Some quiet reflection, maybe….as you read again through the Beatitudes…..perhaps some jot down some questions?
HYMN: I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love:
I love to tell the story because I know it’s true
It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.
I love to tell the story, t’will be my theme in glory
To tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.
I Love to Tell the Story – A Cappella – Chris Rupp – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPtzKT-JLw0
PRAYER: “Gracious Father, a new day has come and I give you thanks. It may have similarities to yesterday but it is a brand new day. I cannot live yesterday again but I can live today. I pray now and ask you to help me with……….Lord changes I feel a conviction to change in my behaviour…attitude…..help me with understanding by what I hear you speak through your written word…..the relationships I share with significant others and those less significant yet to whom I share and will relate to in this day. Bless me now, I pray, as this day begins….through Jesus Christ my Lord. AMEN.