The Beatitudes - Part Eight
Thanks for joining us for this weeks blog, we are going to finish our series looking at the Beatitudes after having a small break to focus on our Easter mini-series. If you haven’t joined us before then feel free to go back and work your way through the previous blogs as the Beatitudes build upon one another and the context of the previous blogs will be useful to understand this blog.
Matthew 5:10-12 (NIV)
10 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.
The first word that I want to focus on here is 'persecuted'. Persecution is something that I don't truly understand, I think that our western culture has given me a position of privilege that has shielded me from ever really feeling a true sense of persecution. However, Jesus tells us here that we will be persecuted if we do the things he has outlined in the previous Beatitudes and if we live in the way that He teaches us to. I think that at some point in our lives each and every one of us can highlight a point in which we have been faced with a level of prejudice based on a characteristic, whether that is stigma attached to class, race or faith, we can all resonate with that feeling of being judged for who we are and what we believe. Just take a minute to acknowledge what that feeling was like and imagine it being a persistent response from people around you. Does that thought make you feel uncomfortable? It definitely makes me feel that way! The word that is used here is 'diwkw' (dee-o'-ko), which has origins rooted in the idea of 'a prolonged form of suffering' or 'to pursue, literally or figuratively'. It's important that we recognise what true persecution looks like, Jesus was faced with persecution and ridicule from the religious folk throughout his entire life and many of the disciples died as a result of persecution. I'm not going to go massively into persecution as it could be a blog all on it's own but if you want to find out more about the persecuted church in today's society then check out: https://www.opendoorsuk.org they are a great organisation that support millions of Christians across the world who are facing persecution for their commitment to God. It is a massive eye opener to how easy we have it sometimes!
The second thing that I want to zoom in on is the 'reward' that we receive for our faith, 'for theirs is the kingdom of heaven'. As awful as persecution is, it's only temporary. We can find a solace and steadfast joy in the fact that our mortal lives are not the end, we have an eternal life in heaven. The word rejoice, in Greek 'cairw' (khah'-ee-ro), is used here. The root of this word means for be 'cheerful', be 'glad' and to be 'calmly happy' - this surmises a sense of contentment that comes when we are actively living and understanding the previous Beatitudes. Here's the bit that excites me the most, the Greek's wrote in tenses just like we do, but they also wrote using specific types of voice. This word is written in is the present tense and it is written with an active voice, meaning that it is not only for then but it's for now too. This sense of rejoicing is constant, when we begin to understand that we will receive the kingdom of God then we can free ourselves from the shackles of persecution and rejoice in the fact that we have an eternal life with God.
I pray for those who live in persecution and I thank God for the privilege that we have been afforded to worship freely. God, help us to rejoice in each moment and live a life that reflects the eternal inheritance that you have so graciously given to us.