“God blesses those who are persecuted for having always done the right thing, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them” (Matt. 5:10).
The beatitudes are conditions of ethical conduct appropriate for the life of the believer. They spell out the kind of life that brings pleasure to God. The eighth and final beatitude comes as a surprise in that it describes the way a believer is to respond when persecuted for simply carrying out the righteous expectations of a holy life. The secular mind that has decided to persecute the Christian is logically confused because if it’s okay for them to decide what is right, why would it be wrong for believers to have the same choice, and decide something different? Of course, it is not the believer who makes the decision, but the God he worships and adores. In Christianity it is God, not man, who makes such decisions.
We have mentioned before that righteousness is simply what God has determined: to show compassion, to hunger and thirst for righteousness, to maintain a pure and happy heart, etc. People who live this way are declared by God to be blessed. This blessedness expresses itself as a way to live “Happily ever after” and that begins immediately but reaches its completeness the moment Jesus returns to take over as King of Kings.
We tend to think that blessedness is the appropriate response for something we have done, some sort of positive achievement, but Jesus says we are blessed for being persecuted for the “right” thing we have done. Put simply the equation looks like this:
DO what is right, and the RESULT is to be persecuted.
Should it not be:
DO what is right, and the RESULT is to be blessed?
Apparently persecution is not something we have to put up with, but a positive blessing itself. How could that be? Only in that when opposition is encountered and we ask how this obstacle can be used to serve the purposes of God do we see persecution as a positive blessing. Paul’s reaction to prison was to sing and pray (Acts 16:5). As a result he ministered to all the other prisoners. So the net result of this particular episode was (1) he did the right thing, and (2) it resulted in effective outreach. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for always doing the right thing.”
It should not come as a surprise that Christian morality, (which often runs counter to secular morality) seems strange to the world. We used to sing, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through.” So stay open for a wide range of persecution because if we really are in the same boat as Jesus, our reception will be much the same as his.