“In a world built on free-will instead of God’s will, we must be the Freaks. While we may not be called to martyr our lives, we must martyr our way of life.” – Michael Tait
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “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. Matthew 5:10-12
Seven is a sound biblical number and I am of the opinion that there are 7 beatitudes. These last two statements of Jesus are technically beatitudes…offering blessing as well as the others…however
It is my understanding that these last two are unique and by reading in between the lines I think Jesus is trying to say something. If we truly follow him by living from the blessedness of his divine life in the 7 beatitudes (poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungering, merciful, pure in heart and peacemaking) we will be living a persecuted life that will be exacted upon us as a crucified life.
But as we have also seen, we will encounter the resurrected life as we live out the Christ life (theirs is the kingdom, comforted, inherit the earth, satisfaction, obtaining mercy, seeing God, called God’s sons).
What I see unfolding in these last two “blessed are” statements is they are primarily saying the same thing twice with a bit more clarity in the second statement as to how we may encounter persecution. Part of that clarity comes not to the general us, but to the personal you…you will be persecuted and you will be rewarded as the prophets, but you must rejoice!!!
But what is hidden is that accompanying the persecuted life is a life of double blessing as we respond to it with joy.
One of the clues to my understanding is that the same reward given to the poor in spirit is the reward offered to the persecuted. It’s not that Jesus couldn’t think of anything new or his kingdom ran out of benefits to offer his poor subjects. No! I believe He is saying in another way that when you follow me in this life as I live this life then you will be persecuted and I am going to ensure that you get a double blessing.
A blessing that could be viewed as both yours and His! We are joint heirs! Yours will come in the form following your ability to rejoice and be glad and Mine will come to you in the same way as I received it when I returned back to the Father, so great is your reward in heaven.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:3-7
In similar fashion to the ascended Lord who oversaw the seven churches in Revelation, he sees all they are going through, but to each he offers a promise when he says (he is good to his word) “to him who overcomes I will give.” Or in the creation narrative it was on the third day that the scriptures recount that God said twice, “It is good.”
Usually when we think of Christians suffering persecution for Christ we think of the people who actually are tortured physically, even to the point of death. I by no means want to be cavalier about their sacrifice any more than i would Christ’s death. That being said, it is also necessary that we understand that there is a living death in following Christ in the beatitudes that is also at the heart of Jesus’ words. The beatitudes are a veiled autobiography of Christ’s life and how he chose to live everyday. He calls us to follow him and be like him in all these ways. If we do, then we should also be a part of the persecuted church.