“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 great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10-12
It is a frightening thought to consider that our faith is so lukewarm that we are not persecuted, but simply ignored. If we aren’t experiencing some kind of persecution, it may well be that is a symptom of how weak the expression of our faith is. The prophets who were persecuted for their faith were joyful, not glum.
It is no accident that Jesus went from talking about being a peacemaker to speaking about persecution. The world enjoys its counter-values so much that the peacemaker is rarely welcome. Opposition is a normal part of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is just as normal as hungering after righteousness or being merciful. The impression Jesus made on his Jewish audience would have been tremendous, because in the first century, Jews believed that strife and hardship came when one was disobedient to God and was a sign of His displeasure. All suffering was viewed this way.
Verses 11 and 12 refer to great rewards in heaven. Do you believe there are rewards in heaven? Jesus said there are. We can recognize that fact, but on the other hand, we are not to focus on those rewards. We are more likely to experience opposition than rewards here on earth, and a true peacemaker will very likely be persecuted.
Excerpts from Learning to Live with Eternity’s Values in View Curriculum