Beatitude #8 1/2- “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (From Matthew 5:11-12)
In this, the second part of the final Beatitude, Jesus does something that up until now He has not done in His teachings on blessedness: He personalizes the beatitude, changing the tense and subject in order to make it specific and personal. He goes from the general audience previously addressed, “those who have been persecuted”, those who mourn”, “the merciful”, “the pure in heart”, etc., to the pointedly specific “blessed are you“. This is to emphasize and underscore that much of our persecution as believers will be personally directed at us, and it will be primarily verbal in nature.
Furthermore, the Apostle Paul says to his protegé Timothy in II Timothy 3:12, “And indeed all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” The Greek word used in the original text here is “dioko” meaning “to put to flight”, “to pursue,” and by implication, “to persecute.” This is largely expressed as a verbal assault, a barrage of unkindly spoken words and venomous accusations founded in untruth brought by the ungodly against God’s children. It is usually precipitated by “godly living in Christ Jesus”-for this persecution comes “on account of Me” [Jesus]. We should expect this verbal “pursuit” and in fact, it is a certain and reliable indicator that we are having a godly Christian witness.
This is not to say that we will be persecuted and slandered at all times by all men. For just a few verses down in the text (Matthew 5:16) Jesus says, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven”. Paul also encourages us to “if possible, so far as depends upon you, be at peace with all men.” (Romans 12:18) Similarly, the writer of Hebrews (probably Paul as well) says in Hebrews 12:14 to “pursue peace with all men”. And guess what the Greek word for “pursue” used here in this verse is? Yes, it is “dioko”, the same word for “persecute” used in the Beatitudes.
So, we are in a sense to be “persecutors” as well, persecutors of peace with all men. And the source of that peace is Jesus, of course! “For He Himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14) To the extent that we “persecute” or pursue men with the peace of Christ, we can expect to be persecuted in return with their slander, revilings, and falsehoods on account of the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and the author of the Gospel of Peace. (I Peter 4:6) In fact, part of putting on the full armor of God to withstand the onslaught of our enemy, the devil, is “having shod your feet with the preparation (readiness to stand) of the gospel of peace”. (Ephesians 6:15)
And lastly, we are to “bless those who persecute you”. (Romans 12:14) But more than that, “Rejoice and be glad” as Jesus says in verse 12 of our Matthew 5 text. Why? “For your reward (wages earned for enduring persecution) in Heaven is great”. Peace be with you all!