This one. This final beatitude. This one sort of feels like the biggest oxymoron of all – and on the surface, it’s not a comfortable one to consider.
God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Matthew 5:10, NLT
Perhaps you’re thinking, “Um, I’m no martyr. I think I’ll take a pass on this one, but thanks anyway, Lord!”
Not so fast, sweet Beatituder! By now, you should be well aware that nothing in these eight amazing verses is really as it seems! Nine weeks ago, did you think you’d be praying to be humbled, aching to be hungry, pleading to be meek? Did you understand how much you’d want the strength to withstand the grief necessary to be merciful? Did you anticipate longing for the depth of what it means to have a heart filled with Godly integrity or feeling comforted by the struggles you might face as a person who strives makes peace?
And did you ever imagine being honestly happy to say – “I am thrilled to be persecuted for my belief in Jesus?” Get ready to utter those words.
This last beatitude sums up the journey we’ve been on, sitting at the feet of Rabbi Jesus on a dusty hillside on the outskirts of Capernum. We began listening to Him as He outlined the things that were most important to Him from a heart perspective. We started in a posture of submission, face down before Him admitting our need for Him. Each week, we raised our heads just a little higher, listening more intently, watching and learning from His example how to change our hearts to a place where they mirror his. And we are ending here, still on our knees, but with our heads up, with the hands of God himself cupping our faces saying “Well done! I’ve got you now. No one can hurt you anymore. No matter how hard they try. You are home.”
For most of us living in the Western World, and with the freedoms that accompany it, will not have to experience the physical persecution of Christian martyrdom. We should never make light of their sacrifice and circumstances, and they are to be praised and honored for their willingness to endure whatever physical persecution comes their way for their Christian beliefs.
But remember that the beatitudes aren’t usually about physical states of being; they refer to our spiritual state. So we’d be wise to consider what spiritual persecution looks like and why experiencing it ushers us straight into God’s waiting arms.
There is no coincidence that this beatitude follows the one about being peacemakers. The opposite of peace maker is peace stealer or peace thief. The one who wears that title is also named Satan.
The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. John 10:10, NLT
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 1 Peter 5:8-9, NIV
We have an enemy. He wouldn’t even bother toying with us if we weren’t a threat. And taking this walk through the beatitudes makes us a threat because anything we do that makes us become more Christ-like causes Satan angst!
That’s why Jesus ends His beatitudes here, with an assurance of protection forever, given to those who take this journey with Him.
Jesus is your flack jacket. All the darts, bullets, and flaming arrows aimed directly at your heart because you are His are absorbed by Him. His arsenal of protective gear is endless. Whatever evil tries to weave into your world, God Himself will simply reweave for His good.
Our first and our last beatitude act as book ends and the blessing for both is: “…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. Heaven is our ultimate destination; the place of healing, rest, peace, and love.
No matter how many times your heart and soul are pierced and rubbed raw (aka persecuted) by tragedy, illness, disappointment, grief, betrayal, or sin, as long as you are His, you will healed. How can you be sure? Here are three beautiful snippets of Truth for you – one from the Old Testament and two from the New:
“Joseph replied… ‘Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now…’” Genesis 50:20, NLT
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:38, NLT
“God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:3-4, NLT
Spiritual persecution is real and is an unfortunate reality of living in this world. But Jesus, in his closing beatitude, gives us the ultimate assurance His mighty protection when we are hit by it – His home.
How do we rewrite this beauty of a beatitude? How about this:
Blessed are those who are a target of evil because they love Jesus, because they will find themselves woven snuggly into God’s protective arms.
Can you believe we’ve completed all eight beatitudes?! It’s true! Next week we wrap it all up, and start to look forward to the holiday season!
Are you following along with us online? Click here for your final week of homework! And if you’ve been digging our music choices, click here for our most FUN song of the series: “Ain’t Nobody” by The Sidewalk Prophets. I totally TRIPLE DOG DARE you not to tap your toes along with this one! 😉
Peace, love, and JOY!
Up Next Week: Walk the Talk