Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Matthew 5:10–11
We have lived in a relatively persecution-free environment for a long time. America has probably been the most Christian-friendly country in modern times. But Jesus told us that Christians would be persecuted: “Because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19).
As we come to the final two Beatitudes, we see in them the world’s response to the believer. The first seven, as we have seen, are a description of Christian character: A Christian is poor in spirit. He has mourned over his sinful condition, which has produced in him meekness. He hungers and thirsts for righteousness. He is merciful, pure in heart, a peacemaker. We would think that a person like this would be loved by the world, yet we find that the world is hostile toward God’s people.
When Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted” (5:10), He spoke of those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, or more specifically, for His sake. When a person stands for what is righteous against the tide of evil opinion trying to dominate a culture and is persecuted, it is for righteousness’ sake. But ultimately, persecution is connected back to our relationship with Jesus—not just for righteousness’ sake but for His sake (see 5:11). In many cases persecution comes simply because a person professes a relationship with Christ.
Persecution for Christ’s sake is part of the Christian life. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation.” That’s a promise. Then He added, “But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Paul told the Philippians, “It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29). He actually put it in terms of privilege: “It has been granted to you”—we get to do this for Christ.
These are not our favorite Bible promises, are they? But suffering for Christ was the experience of the first Christians, and it has been the lot of all true believers to the present day. Anybody who thinks that persecution is a thing of the past is greatly mistaken. The Christian life, biblically speaking, is lived out in the midst of conflict and hostility.