“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Lets remember the context. Jesus had been preaching the gospel of the kingdom to a great crowd and healed every disease among them. As a result there were no doubt a lot of brand new disciples in this crowd he was now teaching. They needed to know two things right from the start.
First – even though they had suffered extensively, they were now going to experience a second kind of suffering that was completely new to them.
The New Testament teaches two kinds of suffering. There is suffering because we live in a fallen world – the suffering that follows natural disasters and the awful suffering that accompanies so many diseases. Added to this is the suffering inflicted upon individuals because of the evil nature of people…shootings, assaults, robberies, etc.
But now Jesus tells them of a new suffering that would be theirs. This would be a suffering for righteousness’ sake; persecution for being a follower of Jesus and for being united with him. Peter talks about this suffering for righteousness’ sake, about being slandered and reviled for living out our godly convictions and for treating others with a Christlike behavior (I Peter 3:13-17). He adds that this should be normal and so don’t be surprised (I Peter 4:12). It comes with being united with Christ.
Once again this beatitude is not a standard we need to live up to in order to be blessed. It is a bold statement of the grace of God that is ours. And our experience of His grace will always be greater than the suffering. In the midst of our suffering we also experience life in the Kingdom of God.
“God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you are ready for anything and everything…” (II Cor 9:8, The Message).
PS– This takes us to the last Beatitude. Here is a suggestion: go back and review how each one is a statement of God’s grace and not a standard we must live up to in order to be blessed. Then take some time to thank God for His incredible grace towards you…that you never need to earn it. You just get to experience it.