Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this verse comes right after Blessed are the Peacemakers. Jesus is trying to tell us something, these two things are related. Now Jesus doesn’t say all peacemakers will be persecuted or that only peacemakers will be persecuted. But certainly there is a correlation.
Jesus chooses the word persecuted which means ongoing and continual pressure from all sides. Jesus came into the world Full of Grace and Full of Truth. Not a grace and truth, not 50/50, he came with 100% grace and 100% truth. And that got him in a lot of trouble. When we hold onto grace and truth we will get hit. And it’s in these moments God is calling us to be a peacemaker.
So in your life when you received peace with God and are pursuing peace with others don’t be surprised when you find yourself in the middle of conflict. That’s exactly where Jesus found himself. Jesus even warned us when he said If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. John 15:18 We shouldn’t be surprised.
Now does this mean that every time we try to bring peace we will take shots? No. There’s plenty of examples of Jesus bringing peace and it went well. Sometimes we will be able to resolve conflict without any negative fallout. However sometimes when we bring peace we will take shots, why? Because we are doing so in the name of the one who went before us. He took shots and we will too.
Now we have to ask how do we know we are taking the right shots? Jesus qualifies what he is about to say with “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” Jesus doesn’t say blessed are those who are persecuted.
Righteousness is defined by God. It’s not defined by me or you, but by God. Now some Christians get persecuted by saying and doing really stupid things in really stupid ways. For instance, when a Christian gets called all sorts of names because they held up a hate sign or cheated on their spouse or embezzled money from their church. That’s not what Jesus is talking about.
Here’s a better way of reading this passaged: Blessed are you when you are persecuted when what you say and do are consistent with what Jesus says and does. Listen, if we are going to take shots, let’s make sure we are taking shots for the things Jesus took shots for. I think everyone should have a list of the hills they are willing to die on. And I want to make sure that every hill I’m willing to die on is one that Jesus is standing on.
Christians have a nasty habit of dying on all the wrong hills. So we have to ask ourselves this question: What are some things Jesus took shots for? And most of what Jesus took shots for fell into one of two categories: Grace and Truth.
He got persecuted and yelled at for eating with sinners, that’s grace.
He got persecuted and yelled at for claiming to be the Son of God, that’s truth.
He got persecuted and yelled at for claiming to forgive sins, that’s grace and truth.
He got persecuted and yelled at for calling out sexual sin, that’s truth.
He got persecuted and yelled at for healing the sick, that’s grace.
We could go on and on all day. But you get the point. These give us an idea of what hills we should be willing to die on. This is what we should be asking ourselves: What hills did Jesus die on and do the hills I’m dying on match Jesus? We’ve got to take our cues from Jesus.
Jesus has more to say about this in the coming verses, but that will have to wait until next week. For now we each need to look at our lives and see if what we fight for matches up with what Jesus fought for.
Jesus tells us that we are blessed if we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. That doesn’t make sense to us. But in Jesus’ countercultural kingdom that is the way to the good life, the life full of blessing.
Read the previous article in the Series: Blessed are the Peacemakers
Read the next article in the Series: (Coming August 5th)