The last of the “Blessed Attitudes” Jesus teaches His disciples is, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” The Kingdom of Heaven, also called the Kingdom of God, is the clear message at the middle of Jesus’s ministry, so this is a rich promise, indeed.
There are many reasons you can be persecuted. You could kill or steal and be persecuted by the government for breaking the law. Your neighbors may persecute you for being loud or not cleaning up your garbage. But this Beatitude is only about being “persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” It goes in hand with the seventh beatitude, which basically says, “Blessed are the people who do the work of reconciliation.” It makes people in the world uncomfortable to see us live reconciled to God and it makes them angry when we invite other people to live for Him too.
Jesus teaches these eight beautiful attitudes and then, beginning at verse eleven, He begins to apply them. The Beatitudes are general and impersonal at first - Blessed are those, blessed are they. Beginning with verse eleven He says, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.”
He is turning to those sitting around Him and He is making the message personal now. He is applying this prediction of persecution. The application of the eight beatitudes begins here and the teaching of these Beatitudes will now be applied throughout the rest of this teaching.
We would think that if there were people with these beautiful attitudes in our world today they would be welcomed by this world. Instead, Jesus tells us His disciples will be persecuted. Why?
The world’s system is at war with the Kingdom of God. The Beattitudes do not fit the world’s culture. Sin conflicts with righteousness. To say that I am no longer lord of my own life, Jesus is my King and I will live His way, is to put down everything that the world cares about. It is a declaration of war and an invitation to persecution for righteousness’ sake.
In Luke 9:23-25 Jesus tells the cost and reward of being His disciple: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” The cost is your life. The reward is infinite and eternal: life forever in God’s Kingdom.
How do you naturally react to persecution? Can you think of ways to demonstrate God’s character when you suffer?
Take a moment to pray, thanking God that He blesses those who are persecuted for His sake. Pray for those brothers and sisters who are suffering persecution for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus that they will remain faithful and strong. Ask Him to help you model the attitudes of Jesus and to give you strength when others reject you for being one of His followers.
This post is adapted from a lesson of the Mini Bible College, an online study of the whole Bible. We highly recommend their audio resources and written materials, available in many languages, to anyone who wants a stronger understanding of the Bible.