By Brooke Holt
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 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 5:10-12
As we wrap up our study of the Beatitudes, it is important to note these qualities taught by Jesus are not the qualities heralded by the world. Think through all the awards ceremonies you have attended throughout your life. How many awards were given to the poor in spirit, the ones who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted? Even though my children attended Christian school for many years, I don't recall a single awards assembly focused on those attributes.
Awards are given to the brightest, the hardest working, and those with perfect attendance. Awards go to those who know how to get ahead in life. We celebrate success based on the world's standards and not God's standards. In reality, the faithful are often persecuted, reviled, and falsely accused. Jesus reminded his listeners the world's ways are often celebrated while his ways are often rejected. Think about the lives of the prophets. God called and equipped them to take his words to the nation of Israel. These words, spoken from love by the Father, called his beloved people back to faithfulness and obedience. In faithfully speaking God's words to the people, the prophets were rejected, persecuted, and even killed.
In these last two verses of the Beatitudes, Jesus offered a different perspective to persecution. While persecution may cause us to question our call and whether we are doing the right thing before the Lord and his people, Jesus told us when we are persecuted, reviled, and falsely accused for the Gospel, then we are blessed. It is critical we recognize it is not just persecution for anything, but persecution for righteousness' sake. In the place of rejection, Jesus told us to rejoice. The word "rejoice" literally means to leap for joy. In the face of pain and opposition. How would one be blessed to the point where they would leap for joy?
Jesus told his followers to remember their rewards will be great in heaven. While the world rejects them, the Father applauds them. Joy is found in the love and affirmation of the Father and is also found in faithfully doing the work of the Father. Jesus is truly presenting an inside-out kingdom. Will we choose to embrace that kingdom trusting his rewards will be for eternity, or will we keep seeking to be accepted by our family, friends, and neighbors and enjoy the temporary rewards of the earthly kingdom?
Have you experienced persecution because of your faith? Do you pray for those who do face that persecution? What would the Lord have you to know about the acceptance and affirmation of the world versus the acceptance and affirmation of your Father in heaven? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Advent is like celebrating a national holiday in a foreign land — like observing the 4th of July as an expatriate. Locals do not understand the fuss. Advent is equal parts cherishing and missing home. AND it’s a mix of loving this world while getting ready to leave it behind. This makes Advent the most human and most complex celebration we have. Isaiah the prophet, David the psalmist, Paul the apostle, John the Baptist, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus all lived in one world and longed for the next. They loved this world and loved the world to come even more. In these 28 devotions in Face the Dawn, join them in wearing the paradox of Christianity- this world may be our home, but that world is HOME.
To see all our Advent resources, click here.
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