Persecuted for Righteousness
- Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Mt. 5:10-12)
Yet Jesus turned all this upside down (a paradox)! Standing with Jesus can bring the same disapproval and punishment from parents, teachers, civil government and employers that we saw as sinful and evil in our early youth. But now we are to rejoice even if it those same people who are now rebuking or seeking to punish. Obviously this is a very small window, but it requires a complete change in our attitude.
- Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man’s sake. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets. ... 26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you, For so did their fathers to the false prophets. (Lk 6:22-26)
What circumstances must exist for us to set aside the norm? First, it is only for “those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” Second, they must “revile, persecute, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.” Third, when “hated,” “excluded,” “reviled,” or given an “evil name,” it must be “for the Son of Man’s sake.” If we “suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people's matters,” it is not persecution but sin. “If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (1Pet. 4:15-16).
Since “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution,” (2Tim. 3:12), we should “rejoice in that day,” “leap for joy,” “and be exceedingly glad.” This is another paradox! How do we rejoice when hated, reviled and excluded? It is a simple matter of faith! They “persecuted the prophets who were before you” and they persecuted Jesus, the apostles, and the saints in the early church. “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (Jn. 15:20). Such persecution is proof that “the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1Pet. 1:7).
This conflict did not begin with us. There has always been a majority of people who actively hate the light. “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed." (Jn 3:19-20). Jesus did everything perfectly while here. He was meek, lowly and humble. He used love and persuasion. He never failed to present the truth in the best possible way to every person He had to deal with. Yet He was persecuted and hated and it was never His fault!
The nature of this conflict is revealed in a startling revelation by our “Prince of Peace.” “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” How can the prince of peace turn things upside down by saying He “did not come to bring peace?”
He brought peace with God (Rom. 5:1), but at a terrible price. By standing with Jesus we must stand against those who oppose Him. This is how He came “to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law,’” and it is why ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ Jesus brought a clear but difficult choice. When those we love take a stand against the Lord, we must choose. If we love “father or mother or “son or daughter” “more than Me”, we are unworthy. (Mt. 10:32-39) It would become a terrible choice for some. “Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved." (Mk. 13:11-13)
Once we understand this point, things become much clearer. Jesus expected the loyalty of His disciples to transcend all other loyalties. When we are forced into a position where our loyalty to Jesus must be sacrificed to keep peace in the home, then we must be prepared to sacrifice peace in the home. The choice is to lose our life, job, liberty, or reputation, or to reject Jesus. If we choose them over us, He will reject us. If we choose Jesus over them, then they will persecute us.
Yet we must be careful, we can’t use an uncompromising stand for Jesus as a cover or excuse for being rude, mean, or a fanatic. The persecution endured by the apostles was undeserved: “being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat.” (1 Cor 4:12-13) They always spoke “the truth in love”. There was no other reason for their mistreatment than their loyalty and love for Christ.
Conclusion. All godly Christians are going to suffer persecution. It is the true sign of living Christianity at its proper level (godliness). No matter how kindly we preach the truth in love, a light that shines and salt that savors will bring persecution. Such persecution is more precious than gold. As we “pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” and “bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Mt. 5:44; Rom. 12:14-15), we can “rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
- So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. (Acts 5:41)
- Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are yo u, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1Pet. 4:12-14)
- We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed — 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Cor 4:7-11)
- Marvel not, brethren, if the world hates you. (1Jn. 3:13)
- Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12:9-10)
- Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (2Tim. 3:12)