“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)
This has been a challenging year like no other. The hits just seem to keep on coming. If you’re anything like me, reading these familiar words from Jesus that begin the Sermon on the Mount are like a balm for my soul. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is a masterful lesson in which Jesus calls us to a new way of living, a truly Christian ethic. And it all, unexpectedly, begins with these proverb-like blessings called the “Beatitudes” (beati sunt, meaning “blessed are” in Latin).
But rather than blessing great deeds and kind words, Jesus proclaims eight blessings over kingdom people that seem to be a sort of progression downward. To start, these kingdom people are “poor in spirit,” but in the next verse they are actually “mourning.” Their mourning results in “meekness,” which leads them to “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” After hungering and thirsting for righteousness, they are filled with “mercy” (makes sense!), which makes them “pure in heart.” Eventually their journey takes them from a change of mindset and heart into action: they take up the hard work of “peacemaking.” But the tenderized, transformed, humbled peacemaker isn’t the end goal of being a kingdom person. Jesus goes on to bless those who are actually “persecuted because of righteousness,” those who are insulted and slandered for their faith. Jesus is laying out a new ethic here that is one in which the way down is the way up; the blessings flow as we allow the Holy Spirit to tenderize our lives through pain, hardship, and persecution.
I think what this means for us today is that the painful seasons of growth, silence, death, mourning, and challenge are actually an opportunity to walk the path of sanctification; to take the next step. As we allow life circumstances and the work of the Holy Spirit to humble us, we are walking the path of Christ and becoming kingdom people. Humility is actually the pathway to glory in Jesus’ kingdom; hardship like we have experienced this past year can tenderize and prune us into more sensitive people who are blessed: the way down is the way up.
- Which of these beatitudes do you desire to experience more of in your life?
- What does it mean to you that persecution for our faith is a way that we are blessed as kingdom people?
by Liz Carver