Actions motivated out of love for those around us, are not always well-received. And it is this very action of peacemaking between God and man which is the action most likely to result in people coming against you. Rather than describing a further characteristic of a Citizen of Heaven, it describes the result of this life, in terms of the world’s reaction to it.
They who are Persecuted
The Beatitudes put a mirror up to us as we live our lives in Christ to let us see how we are doing. That’s why people try to explain them away and minimize them as a simple guide to moral living, or a list of things to do as a Christian, or even pictures of what the Christian life is supposed to look like. It’s a lot easier to set them up as an ideal, than to realize that Jesus expects us to live them out.
For Righteousness Sake
This is the key phrase in this scripture. Sometimes, we as Christians call persecution down on our own heads by either our character flaws, or our foolish actions, and this is not persecution for righteousness’ sake.
When we are offensive, the fault lies in us, and we must pray that God changes our heart to be better servants of His. When the offense is because of the Gospel, we must pray that God changes their hearts and makes them willing to receive. Either way, the answer is the same—pray that God changes hearts to look more like Jesus’.
When Peter is encouraging us in times of persecution, he is also very quick to warn us in 1 Peter 4:15 to Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; In other words, make sure that you don’t do things deserving of judgement.
True persecution for Righteousness’ sake
Being righteous, the righteousness that comes from the inside out is being like Jesus. And so, being persecuted for righteousness’ sake is being persecuted for His sake, for being like Him, identified with Him.
You can do all the good deeds you want, and the World will praise you for it. But do that same good work and give God the praise, and you will find that those same people who were so willing to glorify you for your good works, will refuse to glorify God.
When we are persecuted for our identity with Jesus, our claiming Him and striving to be like Him, then we are in Good Company. Remember Jesus’ words in John 15:18-20 18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.
The identification with Him is the issue. Have you ever noticed that people don’t seem to get all that upset when you mention God, or even thank Him, but when you mention Jesus, they suddenly start taking offense?
Because we are His, and are living for Him, and not the world’s system, we are hated. We are chosen out of the world.
Since Jesus points to Himself as the ultimate example of persecution for righteousness’ sake, and our model, it’s important to understand just why was Jesus crucified. Jesus was killed for two primary reasons. The first, and most important was that He chose to follow God’s plan for His life completely, and this plan included His death on the cross for our sins. And the second reason had to do with the motivation to murderous hatred on the part of the religious authorities. They were jealous and envious with a spiritual jealousy that motivated them. Even Pilate knew that the motives of the religious leaders for handing Jesus over to be crucified were rotten. Mathew 27:18 says 18 For he knew that it was because of envy that they had handed Him over.
Now the reason why it was the Jews who kept rising up against the Christians, is that the Jews knew exactly what Jesus was claiming, and they did not want to submit to God, but rather wanted to keep their traditions which kept them in power. Those amongst the gentiles who tended to rise up were often those committed to the worship of false Gods, and so had their own brand of spiritual jealousy to deal with.
Persecution is expected
God does not want us to be surprised when these kind of things happen, because when we’re surprise, we’re caught off-guard, and can become downcast, and start blaming God.
We are to keep on rejoicing. Persecutions are part of the Christian life.
Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven
Promise to those who have recognized that they are poor in Spirit and come to Jesus on His terms, is reiterated to those who endure persecution—Theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. The promises in the beatitudes start and end with being Citizens of Heaven.
Keep your eyes on the prize—Jesus
Being continually in the presence of Jesus will be the real prize.
Keep your eyes on the prize—Heaven
Our inheritance, in terms of our reward in eternity is closely linked to our willingness to identify ourselves closely with Jesus in this life, and indeed to how much we suffer for Him in this life. Keep the faith in persecution.