Sermon on the Mount

Episode 9

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 Matthew 5:10-12

We complain about our “rights” if they don’t include the name of Jesus at the community government opening prayer.  But is that really persecution?  How about businesses that are targeted and attacked through legal channels for not serving LGBTQ?  Is that persecution?  Some claim persecution when churches were directed not to meet in person during the early days of the pandemic.  Is that persecution?

Let’s be honest.  Here in America we really do not know persecution.  I remember many years ago now being in a mission’s service and heard a missionary speak of the church in Iran who had as its motto, “To the last man, to the last breath.”  I have read “Voice of the Martyrs”, “Foxes Book of Martyrs” and even the more modern version “Jesus Freaks” These men and women put their lives on the line every single day all in the name of Jesus.  Their faith was and is costly.  Our brothers and sisters around the world are facing persecution every day and they consider it pure joy.  They would consider the American statements of persecution to be a joke.

But let us assume that what we face by the anti-Christian forces does qualify as persecution.  What are we to do?  First, we need to pay attention to the words of Jesus here as He speaks to us from the Mount.  We must see that it is much more than just our faith that leads to our persecution.  It is persecution because of righteousness that is commended and comes with a reward.  This is bringing justice and truth to our world.  This is done at great personal risk.  This is not done for our glory.  Righteousness means that it is not done to sooth our own conscience or make us feel better.  Righteousness is not done out of guilt of shame.  Many who stand for the right are made fun of and taunted.  Some have their livelihoods taken away.  When things are done in righteousness, they also exude love to the lost. 

Paul calls us to speak the truth in love.  Too many of us are really good at trying to protect ourselves so we speak truth but forget the love.  Others are so focused on love that they become appeasers making a peace treaty with Satan.  Righteousness is difficult to stand for because you will be assaulted not only from the world but also from the church. 

It seems like our modern church does not really want to ruffle feathers.  Jesus ruffled feathers.  They did not whip him, spit on him, insult him and put him on a cross because he appeased them.  He loved them so deeply he was willing to die for them.  I wonder if His mind wandered to his future as He spoke these words from the Mount.

My guess is that they might have, but if they did, He encouraged His mind to go beyond the persecution to the reward.  If you want the Kingdom of Heaven you must be willing to be persecuted.  Live a life of righteousness!  Let the world see you doing the right things with love in your eyes.  They will first be confused because currently the church is seen as filled with hate.  Many historians talk about the early heroes of the faith.  They spoke truth in love, they broke no laws except they would not worship Caesar.  They were seen by the public serving each other and the lost.  Then they witnessed these men and women being put into the Coliseum to be brutally mauled by man or beast.  They did not cry out; they did not speak against the injustice.  They simply accepted and allowed their faith or be fully seen.  Many came to Christ because of them.

What will be the result when you show love to the homosexual, the murderer, the bigot, the Muslim, the false teacher?  Let them attack you.  Smile and know that the Kingdom of Heaven is waiting for you.  Thank your persecutors for their help toward refining your faith.