Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
1 Peter 4:12-19; Matthew 5:10-12
The beatitudes describe the life of the King and therefore the life of the kingdom. They begin and end by speaking of those to whom the kingdom “belongs”– the poor in spirit (v3) and the persecuted (v10). And in between there seems to be a progression. We might imagine a story going something like this:
I realise my true spiritual exile from the living God. I see Jesus come to join me in my godforsaken predicament, but He seems to be doing life differently. He brings the life of heaven to earth, establishing a new kind of kingdom.
By comparison, I know myself to be poor in spirit, but Jesus says “Come on in.” (v3)
I mourn over this death-bound world and my death-bound spiritual state, but Jesus says “I’ve got the answer.” (v4)
I give up on my own strength and abilities and Jesus says “That’s the Spirit.” (v5)
I realise my desperate lack of righteousness and Jesus says “Here, have mine.” (v6)
Won by His mercy I start to offer it to others. (v7)
Cleansed by His priestly work, I start seeing things right. (v8)
Reconciled by His great atonement, I begin witnessing to His peacemaking. (v9)
And that’s when the persecution starts! (v10)
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)
Citizens of Christ’s kingdom don’t have to go looking for trouble. Life in Christ simply will run against the grain of this world – in painful ways.
We have already noted that “righteousness” is parallel to Jesus in the beatitudes (see v11). Living for Jesus will mean trouble in this world. Because Jesus was trouble for this world. And so, as Paul said:
“Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” (Philippians 1:29)
So often we suffer and conclude that we’ve done wrong. Such thinking reveals our default assumptions. We imagine that “right living” is about taking the path of least resistance and avoiding all confrontation. When persecution comes, we immediately question what we’ve done wrong. Jesus says, Don’t be ridiculous! Right living means persecution. And such persecution is blessed. It is kingdom living. It is, as Paul would go on to say, “the fellowship of his sufferings” (Philippians 3:10).
So if we face trouble for the name of Christ – and we will if we belong to Him – then let Peter’s words challenge and comfort us:
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you.” (1 Peter 4:12-14)