“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
At the beginning of our study of the beatitudes, I said that the word “blessed” is more aptly translated “happy”. Nowhere does this seem more problematic than this beatitude. Are we supposed to be “happy” when we are persecuted for doing good things? Sounds like a stretch to me. Verses 10-13 form one single message about how believers will be persecuted for following Jesus. Jesus never minced words with his disciples about this subject. He said to them, “The world will hate you because of me.” And as we look at what is happening in our world, we know persecution is happening all over the place. One statistic shows over 700 acts of violence happen against Christians around the world each day. One estimate shows how 100,000 Christians are martyred every year. While we may not be in as much danger here in the U.S., persecution for Christian belief is growing in our country too. But Jesus gives a promise when you are persecuted. He says, “Great is your reward in heaven.” So, while no one would invite persecution, we shouldn’t be unusually surprised when it happens. We know in that moment Jesus is with us. He certainly knew what it was like to be persecuted, and he will help us to get through it.
Jesus, when we are being persecuted for following you, give us your strength and help to realize that great is our reward in heaven. Amen.