The Upside-Down Blessing – Pt 8 – Persecution

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10

Goodness isn’t always appreciated… by the world.

When I was growing up, I bought in fully to a beautiful fable that my teachers, parents, and church shared with me.

Just do the right thing and it will all work out.

I still, in my upper 40’s, so want to believe that this is true. But… it isn’t always true with regard to money, fame, success, or victory. Even Jesus acknowledges… Yeah… sometimes you get hit because you did the right thing. It is true though, regarding the kingdom of heaven.

To the Christian, this is not supposed to be a surprise. The world we live in is not always run by Godly values. It is materialistic (stuff centered), hedonistic (pleasure centered), and downright self-centered. When someone walks into that space and they are not focused on things like: accumulation, status, pleasure, or the following of their own heart… then it is no surprise that our world does not understand.

Righteousness in the Bible is simply defined as “doing the right thing.” But the definition of what is ‘the right thing’ is set by God and not by us, and that is often a sticking point for our culture. It can cause confusion, frustration, and may inspire persecution by a world-system that doesn’t understand or that feels threatened by the way of God.

I mean… look at Jesus.

But there is a caution here…

This blessing comes toward the end of the Beatitudes for a reason. It is a guard against self-righteousness. I’m a firm believer that one should always be careful when we are about to label ourselves as ‘persecuted for righteousness sake’. It’s worth it to doublecheck… to stop and ask… are we really?

By placing this particular blessing at the end of the Beatitudes, Jesus has acknowledged that the world won’t understand the ways of God, AND that you and I may have trouble because of it. That acknowledgement however assumes all the other beatitudes are up and running. It assumes that:

  • You have learned humility by finding God when you ran out of soul
  • You have confessed your sins and met God in your grief
  • Your power and influence are tempered by grace
  • Your primary motivation is to walk in the ways of God
  • You have not a drop of revenge in your heart, and are ready to be merciful
  • You are practicing sanctification, setting aside that which is not Godly
  • You leave the peace of God in your wake, far more than you leave anything else

You and I need to be careful before we claim this blessing of persecution, before we label ourselves martyrs for the Lord because… if we aren’t showing the previous blessings, then it’s more likely that we’re not the persecuted martyr.

We’re probably the persecuted self-righteous jack***

Sorry to say it so bluntly, but let me say it now with as much empathy as I can: If you’ve lived your Christianity out honestly and for any length of time, you can share a story from both sides of this. A story where you were self-righteous, and a story where you were actually righteous through the grace of God. The problem is, you and I have zero desire to tell stories where we were self-righteous because they’re embarrassing, and once you tell a story where you were actually righteous then you risk moving it into the first category! These things are more lived than they are spoken.

But if you’ve lived your Christianity out honestly and for any length of time, then you may have learned why Jesus put this blessing at the end of the list. The Christian needs not just to do the right thing but also to do the right thing in the right way. They are both of equal importance. This world does not need any more people who are “technically correct” but totally going about it in the wrong way! Let’s not add to that group.

When it’s really happening…

We’re not always self-righteous though. Sometimes it really is happening. We really are being persecuted for doing the right thing. When that’s happening, when you are at least getting a solid B- on the other blessings and you are faithfully stepping out in doing the right thing… and it’s being resisted, misunderstood, or even persecuted.

Then know this upside-down blessing.

The opinion of the world is irrelevant, if you are clearly walking in the way of the Lord. Know the peace of Christ that passes understanding. Know the God who is willing to set you a table of rest and refreshment even as your opponents prowl about you (Psalm 23). Know that because you are acting rightly (in the way of God), and attituding rightly (with the love of God)… know that the Kingdom of heaven is yours.

You may feel like you’re on center stage, with the world disapproving and moving against you… but know this. God is proud of you, you are working to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. AND, I can almost guarantee that someone who is watching this all unfold, is moved by your faithfulness. They will probably never tell you, you may not even know who they are, but your actions and attitude (when they echo Christ), are making a way for the Holy Spirit to speak to their heart.

In this upside down blessing… the true kingdom of heaven actually expands when the world decides to persecute it.

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