March 6, 2012: The Fourteenth Day of Lent
March 6, 2012 § Leave a comment
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
~ Matthew 5.10 ~
Jesus wraps up the poetry portion of the Beatitudes with this teaching. Interestingly enough, when we look back at verse 3, we see there that the Kingdom of Heaven also belongs to those who are poor in spirit. The first and last sayings of this poetic progression speak of those who are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. This insight should help us understand the teachings in the middle. As we have been observing, all of the Beatitudes speak of the life of the believer within the Kingdom of Heaven in various ways; the “bookends” of this section confirm this for us.
Christ continues to speak in ways that may not make sense at first glance. Persecution and discrimination against Hebrews by the Roman occupying forces would not have been uncommon. How are persecuted people blessed in any way? We must remember that the rules are different in the Kingdom. Christ mentions that the blessed ones are persecuted because of their righteousness; clearly, the persecuting ones do not align themselves with the Kingdom. Until the day comes when Christ returns in power, there will be people attempting to establish authority over one another. These temporal kingdoms of earth will try to overcome the beginnings of the Kingdom of Heaven by making life difficult for those who represent the Kingdom of Heaven.
However, the persecuted ones live in a state of blessedness. Why? Because they do not belong to a power that will inevitably be swept away. Rather, their allegiance lies with the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. All other earthly powers are mere blips on the radar in comparison.
Yet, because of the “already-not yet” nature of the present, persecution exists. Here in the United States, we do not suffer persecution for our faith; oftentimes, our efforts to live properly with God and others are accepted even by those who do not share our faith. Occasionally, there may be some pushback or disagreement from those who have differing views; however, this does not rise to the level of persecution present in other parts of the world. In places such as Egypt and China, we see other faiths and political structures attempting to rid their nations of the Gospel. Blessed are those who suffer estrangement, loss of property, beatings, and even martyrdom, for they belong to a Kingdom which will not pass away with time.
Like it or not, Christ puts persecution on his path of discipleship; when we follow Christ, and experience the accompanying spiritual growth, the enemy will not stand idly by. We can expect some level of opposition. Even though in the US we are not faced with the threat of death or imprisonment for our beliefs, the enemy of our souls will fight against our growth in Christ somehow. Jesus challenges us to persevere in our own lives and pray for our fellow persecuted believers. Are you experiencing opposition to your spiritual formation? What form does this take for you? Also, do not let us forget our brothers and sisters in Christ who live in danger. Let us surrender ourselves, and them, to the Lord.
Lord Christ, thank you for this encouraging truth. Please be with me; do not let me be overcome by evil. Help me to withstand temptation and opposition. Lord, I also lift up my fellow believers who are suffering greatly for their faith. Comfort and aid them. Strengthen all of us to run the race that you have set before us. Amen.