Beatitude #8- “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (from Matthew 5:10)
This is the only two-part beatitude from the Sermon on the Mount, and the first where Jesus uses the past tense verb in ascribing blessedness, which He does in the first half of this beatitude in verse 10. (The second part of the beatitude comes in the following verse, 11) But here in verse 10 he speaks of those who “have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness”, perhaps to even have suffered to the point of death and martyrdom. These held fast to righteousness in the very face of severe persecution and the pressures, physical, emotional, and spiritual, to utterly forsake righteousness for unrighteousness and unrighteous responses. But they stood fast for righteousness’ sake! This blessedness is echoed by the Apostle Peter in I Peter 3:13-17 where he says,”if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed.” (v.14) So how is a follower of Christ to respond to persecution? Certainly not in anger or with vitriolic retaliation toward the persecutors, as James says “for the anger of man does not achieve (work, promote, bring about) the righteousness of God”. (James 1:20) Rather, as Peter put it in the previously referenced passage from his first epistle, “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence, courteously and respectfully” (v.15) This is to be the Christian’s righteous response in the face of persecution. And our reward? The Kingdom of Heaven!