Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
IT MAY SEEM strange that Jesus should pass from peacemaking to persecution, from the work of reconciliation to the experience of hostility. Yet however hard we may try to make peace with some people, they refuse to live at peace with us. Not all attempts at reconciliation succeed.
John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount
First of all, rather than talking hypothetically about this passage, we know that thousands of Christians are being persecuted and killed for their faith in Jesus Christ. In Assyria, groups of Christians are being slaughtered for their faith including women and children. It's funny we don't hear much about this in the news, but the United Kingdom has recently deemed this genocide. It is estimated that one Christian is being martyred every five minutes in Iraq. You can read more of the sobering details at this link
As Christians we often think we are immune to this, as it happens so far away. But we are called to be the body of Christ. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:26, "When one part of the body suffers, we all suffer with it." It is easy in the West to get individualistic with our faith, but these issues call us to look outside of ourselves. The least we can do is pray for our brothers and sisters in the faith, and especially their children.
I guess the only hope they can have, as is mentioned, is the promises that theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. While they may not see the reward for their faithfulness today, they will certainly realize it when Jesus calls them home. Although we should never seek persecution, the more and more we stand up for what we believe, the more likely we are to be persecuted. This can happen even in subtle ways. Today, it is much riskier to talk about one's faith in Jesus, than even 20 years ago.
It is interesting that many presidential candidates are talking about faith, and even mentioning faith in Jesus on the campaign trails. Pollsters continue to talk about how important the evangelicals vote has become. Franklin Graham, while not advocating any candidate is going around the country urging Christians to get involved in the political process at least by voting. Early returns show many more Christians are showing to vote realizing that this election will have a lot of importance for our country.
Jesus says, "Happy are those who are persecuted". That seems paradoxical in nature, but maybe this beatitude will become more familiar to us in the days and years ahead!