Yesterday I went to Lakewood to pick up the grandchildren for an overnight stay. Today, they followed me to my Chiropractor appointment, dropping off my ballots, and helping me with my campaign. A different day for them for sure on their spring break.
BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY…. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12 ESV
The “Sermon on the Mount” begins with the beatitudes. Of these nine pronouncements of blessing to those in various spiritual conditions and actions, two deal with persecution in some form for those who stand for righteousness and identity with Jesus.
As much as we like to talk about the blessings of following Christ, it is important to understand the reality that in a world that is “headed for destruction” righteousness is not a popular topic. A recent issue of Time Magazine contains the title, “Is Truth Dead?” The description of the Book of Judges that says, “every man did what was right in his own eyes” seems to characterize our day. We need to remember…..
The possibility and potential of being reviled for the cause of Christ is a reality. Paul warned Timothy, “…everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12 NIV) Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (John 15:18 NIV)
Persecution for the cause of Christ calls for the proper response. One the practical side, we live in a country that does provide for religious freedoms and personal rights. On a personal side, the attitude we possess is important. Persecution is to happen because of righteousness, not sin. It is to happen due to our identification with Christ, not deficiencies in our attitude and conduct. Jesus said when we are reviled for His sake we are to, “rejoice and be glad….”
Peter said, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:21-23 NIV)
Persecution places us in good company. The prophets of old were rejected and ridiculed. Jesus faced opposition. The Lord was faithful to them and he will be faithful to those who endure hardships, misunderstanding and attacks. The reward for our faithfulness is not received in this life, but the next.
Persecution for Christ’s sake results in blessing. Those who are persecuted and reviled are in the same “camp” as the poor in spirit, those who morn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers. Following Christ sets us apart, not because we are special or unique, but because Christ is special.
Prayer for today…. Lord, help us to remember that Your blessings often come when we place You first and are willing to take a stand for righteousness. Help us not to be discouraged, disheartened or surprised. Grant us the strength and wisdom that is needed for all that we face in following You.