Blessed Are The Persecuted

May 16, 2017

Blessed Are The Persecuted

Matthew 5:10-12 says “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

At first thought one might say “Only a fool would say that the persecuted are blessed.” Certainly those who are suffering persecution wouldn’t count themselves among the blessed. How then could Jesus say “Blessed are they who are persecuted?”

I must confess that I cannot speak from experience when I write an article on this subject. I was blessed to be born in America. In the years I spent on the mission field I never experienced anything I would call persecution. I don’t expect to share in any of the blessings God has for the persecuted.

Our all wise God knew that many of his people would suffer persecution. God holds in high esteem those who suffer persecution. Perhaps that is why he devoted three verses of the beatitudes to this subject and only one to the other beatitudes. These three verses are not the only ones in the Bible dedicated to the persecuted.

We find persecution in the Old Testament. Some examples are:

Elijah: I Kings chapter 19

Jeremiah: chapter 38

Danial: chapter 6

Danial’s three companions: Daniel chapter 3

In the New Testament we find that Jesus himself suffered persecution. After preaching in Nazareth we read in Luke 4:28-30 that they thrust him out of the city and took him to the brow of a hill with intentions of throwing him down headlong. Miraculously he passed through the midst of them and went his way. In John 10:31 we read that the Jews took up stones to stone him because he said “I and my Father are one.” In John 15:20 Jesus said “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.”

The early disciples were persecuted by the Jews and later by the Roman government. Persecution has been a part of the history of Christianity from the beginning until the present day.

God has never put his stamp of approval on using persecution as a means of persuading people to become Christians. Sad to say, we read in history of some groups that called themselves Christians, but they persecuted unbelievers and even Christians if they left their group. In so doing, they brought disgrace upon themselves. Freedom of religion has always been taught and practiced by genuine Christians.

Hebrews 11:34-38 lists the persecuted among the heroes of the faith. “Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” They deemed the excellency of Christ of more value than their own life.

Christians suffer persecution for more than one reason. Those who live a consistent Christian life put sinners to shame. Sinners don’t feel at ease in their presence and good Christians shouldn’t feel at ease in the company of sinners. Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers. II Corinthians 4:4 says, “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” They can’t see that Christians enjoy a serenity that the unbelievers don’t have. Christians have direction in their lives that helps them avoid pain and shame that others suffer from because of foolish mistakes they make. Rather than recognize that Christians are right, the unbelievers ridicule and persecute them.

Other persecutors are adherents of a religion that is advanced by force rather than by persuasion. People are given the choice of either accepting that religion or accepting the consequences. The consequences are most often death. The adherents of this religion are encouraged to praise, honor, and exalt those who kill the most people. The abundant satisfaction of sexual lusts in heaven is promised to those who kill those whom they call “heretics.” I would rather think that they will be given a special place in the fires of hell. Most of the persecution Christians suffer today stems from this religion. It is a serious mistake to let a religion that believes in making converts by means of the sword take advantage of our freedom of religion.

The Bible says that God promises a special place in the kingdom of heaven to those who suffer persecution. Twice he says they are blessed. He says their reward in heaven will be great. It is doubtful that anyone ever seeks to be persecuted, but there are those who choose to accept persecution rather than deny their Lord. Because of that, they shall be among the most richly rewarded in heaven. Jesus was contemplating the rewards that will be given in heaven to those who are persecuted when he said “Blessed are they who are persecuted.”

The power to take revenge is not given to those who are being persecuted. It is human nature for us to question why God allows it to go on. Only God has the right to take revenge. It appears as though it will go on until the end. In Revelation 6:9-11 Christian martyrs asked why God allowed persecution to go on. “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.”

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