What a Christian is: Part 10
Have you ever known someone to spiritualize every setback? If the hot water heater goes out, it’s persecution for the faith. If someone is rude, it’s because the world hates Christ. Well? Not necessarily. Sometimes water heaters break. Sometimes people are rude.
But Jesus does finish his beatitudes by saying that every Christian will be persecuted: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).
This final beatitude is a curious one. The previous seven described characteristics of genuine believers. Christians are meek, merciful, peacemakers, etc. But, unlike showing mercy, I cannot choose to be persecuted. It may happen (I wish it wouldn’t), but I cannot make it happen. So, how could persecution describe every Christian? That’s the challenge. Because this blessing does describe every true member of Christ’s kingdom.
How does that work? It will help to remember that this is the 8th installment in a series. Jesus started by describing the transforming process of repentance (Beatitudes 1–4). He finished by describing the effects of that transformation (Beatitudes 5–8).
Let’s take the Peacemaker as our example. If you love your neighbor and wish for them to have peace with God, then you will talk to them about guilt, judgment, repentance, and forgiveness. (If you don’t then you’re not a peace-maker only a peace-wisher). You’ll invite them to repent and be saved… Try that next time you sit beside someone at a Braves game. People HATE that conversation. They hate the idea that God is in charge and the judge. And so, if you are a peacemaker, you will, at times, be hated in response to the actions of genuine love. They will hate your righteousness for the very reason that that it is good. Jesus warns us that will happen in John 15: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (vv. 18–19).
Every Christian will be persecuted for Christ’s sake, because every Christian will demonstrate Christ in righteousness, mercy, purity, and peacemaking. Now, dear Christian, are you demonstrating those things? Are you living out the faith you profess? Can you honestly say that you have “let your light shine before men” (Matt 5:16)?
Don’t be discouraged. Jesus warned us that the world would hate us, but he also offered comfort. Jesus ends his beatitudes saying. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you… Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (vv. 11–12).