The last of the “beatitudes,” as given in Matthew 5, is found in verse 10: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
With the first seven, Jesus merely stated the desired characteristics of discipleship and followed with the rewards for acquiring them. The eighth attribute is expanded upon: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Jesus was always honest with those who heard him about the demands of following him faithfully. He didn’t want them to be drawn to him through false hopes, and where others might seek to gain disciples by bogus promises of earthly ease and glory, Jesus warned that the road to heaven is long and hard. We must be willing to suffer for his name, while being assured of a reward beyond our imagination.
History is full of examples of those who have endured persecution because their allegiance to God. Hebrews 11, a catalogue of the faithful, gives accounts of many in the centuries before Jesus who endured hardship for their faithfulness. Beginning with Abel, the son of Adam and Eve, and ending with a list of unnamed servants who experienced both persecution and natural deprivations which few have known, “of whom the world was not worthy” (v. 38).
Some who read accounts such as these might ask what the reasons for such suffering are. In the passage, Jesus said these are persecuted and have “all kinds of evil” spoken against them on his account. He said they suffer “for righteousness sake,” that is, because they sought to live righteously; in other words, rightly.
Although many do not realize it or have forgotten it, Christians are to be different from those who don’t follow God. Jesus’ life was a strong contrast to those among whom he lived. The apostle John wrote of him, “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” (John 1:10-11) Since Jesus followers are, by definition, to follow him, we will be rejected by those who do not believe in him and are unwilling to live the type life he wants men to live.
If Christians proclaim Jesus to the world as — in his words — “THE way, and THE truth and THE life” — and insist, as he did, that no one can come to the Father except through him (John 14:6), we will be rejected by many as he was.
In this so called “postmodern” age which supposedly insists on toleration for all viewpoints about anything, an exclusive religion that disavows any savior but Jesus is distasteful to many, and something to be condemned. Doesn’t this sound just a little intolerant? “Consistency, thou art a jewel.”
Jesus said in this final beatitude that we should actually rejoice when we’re persecuted because of him. The reason is simple — the kingdom of heaven belongs to those willing to live by this standard. Even though suffering will come in this world, it can’t compare with the joys of life in the next. Let me encourage you to be willing to suffer for the Lord.