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)
These last of the “Blesseds” have to do with bad things that happen to you because you are following Christ. These apply to us, but not to the degree that they did to the early Christians, many of whom were martyred for their belief. Nor do they apply to us as they do right now in parts of the world where people are suffering intense persecution — some losing their lives — because of their faith in Christ.
Sometimes Christians try to apply this blessing to themselves when it is not because of Christ they are suffering, but because they are being fanatical, or they have to be 100% right all the time, or they are pushing their values on society and getting “persecuted” as a result. That doesn’t count. This doesn’t say, “Blessed are you when you are persecuted for being insensitive.” It has to be because of Jesus, not because of us.
It’s really justice Jesus is talking about here. Blessed are you when you are unjustly treated because of me. I notice. I will set that straight. Leave your case with me.
Here’s the thing you can’t help but notice about all these “Beatitudes” or blessings Jesus lays out in this, His earliest teaching. They are not — any one of them — anything we would naturally consider a blessing. The poor in spirit, the mournful, the meek, the unrighteous, the merciful, the innocent, the maligned and misunderstood … these are those who are blessed. Oh really? Doesn’t look like it on the surface.
Jesus is evening the score. He is raising up the lowly and bringing down the proud. It is for us to realize this and focus on our need, because that will always lead us to our inheritance in the kingdom of God.
What is Jesus doing here, if He’s not turning our value system on its head? We tend to set aside the successful, the popular, and the wealthy as those who are blessed. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The teachings of Jesus necessitate a new way of thinking.
Let’s just say, generally, that the needy are those who are blessed, and that means needy in every sense of the word. Are you sensing your need today? Are you needing mercy, righteousness, comfort, peace, innocence, and justice? Consider yourself blessed. It is our need that tethers us to Christ. That’s when He becomes our only resource, and that’s why we end up blessed: We end up with Jesus.