“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Mat 5:10-12 NIV)
This beatitude puzzles me. It doesn’t puzzle me because the words are difficult to understand, or the meaning is unclear. It puzzles me because the creator of the universe, a good and all-powerful God chooses the way of suffering for Himself and His kingdom. The principle is clear throughout the entire Bible. It is a challenge for us. I had someone tell me once that he didn’t believe in God because if there was a God life shouldn’t be so hard.
Only this beatitude isn’t about suffering in general. It is about a specific kind of suffering, the suffering that results from following Jesus. In China, Christian parents are striving to educate their children in the way of Jesus. They have created private schools to accomplish this task. These schools are now being persecuted. Here is an example of how one school responded:
Today, security guards still keep watch over the empty building to prevent the school from meeting, according to Jacob Jiang, one of the school’s founders (WORLD changed his name for his protection). As teachers and parents fretted over the government opposition, Jiang reassured them: “Our name is Beatitudes, and the one blessing we lacked was ‘blessed are the persecuted,’” he said. “Thankfully God has a sense of humor. He allowed us to go through persecution so we could gain all eight blessings.” – World Magazine September 29, 2018 Issue
Persecution presents us with a choice. It doesn’t matter if the persecution is subtle or life threatening. Anytime we are tempted to hide our relationship with Jesus, either to be included or avoid real pain, we are faced with this choice. Do we really love Jesus and trust Him more than anything else? Jesus’ love for His Father was the most important thing in His life. They were one and even the cross could not shake Jesus’ trust in His Father. Persecution is real, and we don’t have to live in a foreign country to experience it.
“A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. 33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:32-33 NIV)
Jesus knew He was not alone and chose to go to the cross. Whatever we’re facing, including persecution, we can choose Jesus. He has overcome, and He is with us.
Scriptures and Discussion Questions:
- Why do you think Peter rebuked Jesus? What did Peter expect for Jesus and His followers?
- Why does Jesus respond so strongly and directly to Peter?
- What does it mean to “take up your cross”?
- What is Jesus concerned will happen to His followers?
- When have you been tempted to be ashamed of Jesus?
- What gives you the confidence to be open and obvious about your relationship with Jesus?
- What is happening to the church this passage is written to?
- Who could this passage be written to today?
- What helps the followers of Jesus to persevere?
- When have you been tempted to shrink back?
- What do you find in this passage that would help you to stand firm?
- How does Paul’s describe life as a follower of Jesus?
- How do we tend to feel when we are suffering or being persecuted?
- How should we feel?
- What gives us the confidence to conquer and endure?
Additional Scriptures on Persecution and Suffering:
- Colossians 1:24-26
- Hebrews 5:7-10
- 1 Peter 1:3-9
- Revelation 2:8-10
FOR MORE FAMILY, SMALL GROUP, AND CHURCH RESOURCES GO TO: The Beatitudes on mygrandmatime.com.