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Blessed are those who are persecuted… (Matthew 5:10) by Pastor Youngjae Jee

posted Nov 30, 2014, 3:11 PM by Bowmansville UMC   [ updated Dec 30, 2014, 12:57 PM ]

Joseph refused to go to bed with Potiphar’s wife and was falsely accused by her and put into jail. (Genesis 39:7-20)  Daniel prayed regularly three times a day and because of that he was thrown into the lion’s den. (Daniel 6)  John the Baptist raised his voice against unlawful marriage of the king Herod, and because of that he was beheaded by his wife Herodias. (Mark 6:14-29)   Paul has been beat up, locked up, or kicked out so many times when he spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

They were righteous people of God, but they suffered and their suffering was due to their righteousness.  Does it make sense to you?  If the result is suffering and persecution why do we have to do right things?  Wouldn’t you just stop being righteous to avoid suffering and persecution?  You may be tempted to say “that is right!”  However, doesn’t that mean doing something wrong already?  Do you want to live just in the middle zone?  Neither doing good nor doing bad, but just living?  Is that possible?

Dante Alighieri once said, “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.”  This applies to our faith life too.  Remember what the Lord says to the church in Laodicea, “because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

Faithful life is not a non-suffering, happily-ever-after life at all.  Our Lord Jesus was very clear about this.  However, he said that suffering or persecution because of righteousness is a blessing that belongs to the kingdom of heaven.  “But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.” (1 Peter 2:20)   In Matthew 5 verse 10, “because of righteousness” is rephrased as “because of me” in verse 11.  That means righteousness is Jesus.  When you are persecuted because of Jesus you are blessed to belong to the kingdom of heaven, and that is commendable before God.

Furthermore, Peter says it is our calling.  He says, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:20-21)  Jesus suffered for us, and there is a reason for it.  By his suffering Jesus set the example for us to follow.  Therefore, his reason why he suffered must be our reason why we have to suffer too.

Peter says, “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.  When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges  justly.  He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:22-24) 

Did you find your reason to suffer?  He took the cross so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.  Why do we have to suffer because of Jesus?  Why does Jesus call us to suffer in his name?  Because through our suffering other brothers and sisters might die to sins and love for righteousness.  Pay attention to an auxiliary verb “might”.   There is no guarantee.  People react differently.  When Peter preached to the crowd after the Pentecost, people were cut to heart and asked Peter, “what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)  There is quite an opposite reaction.  When Stephen preached to the Jews, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him, covered their ears, and eventually rushed at him and stoned him. (Acts 7:54-58) 

Remember Jesus said, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19)

Why would you take that call with such possible danger?  Because you know that Jesus suffered for you so that you died to sins and live for righteousness.  Ironically, only through such danger and suffering, righteousness expands.  The name Jesus spreads farther through your suffering.  The Kingdom of God expands through your suffering.  That is the way of which Jesus set the example.  The way! That is the calling.  It is right historically that whenever persecution of believers became severe, Christianity expanded greatly.  Without suffering nothing gains.  Do we suffer?

When you suffer pain is not avoidable, but the Lord Jesus said, “Rejoice and be glad.”  When you live in faith and love to cover up all kinds of sins of others, there is pure joy that only you can have in your heart.  Painful but joyful!  When a mom gives birth to a baby it is painful but joyful.  If you try to give birth to a baby righteousness, faith, or love, it must be painful but joyful.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me, for you are giving birth to another righteousness expanding kingdom of God. 

Here is the simple word of the Lord, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness for there is the kingdom of heaven.”  Amen.