Rejoice when you are persecuted. How are we doing with that?

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Matthew 5:11-12 ESV
“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.

I’m opening this post with the end of the Beatitudes. No, this isn’t a part of a series. No, you haven’t missed the ones before this. It’s just something that has been on my brain back burner for a bit and I figured I’d share some thoughts about it. Opening up the thoughts, it is best to be familiar with the context. This is part of a larger section. That section is part of a larger sermon. That sermon was presented to many people toward the earlier part of Jesus’ ministry, though sections of it and possibly all of it were likely shared in other settings as well. It is recorded most famously in Matthew 5-7. That is a great three chapter section to read every day for a period of time. Truly immerse yourself in it. But for today two verses are on my mind.

Jesus tells us that we are blessed, fortunate, even favored when others revile and persecute us. In certain situations. For certain reasons.Here in the USA, we are told that we do not experience any reviling or persecution. I reject that notion outright. We may not have the same intensity of persecution that they have in other places in the world, but that is not to say that we do not suffer from the attacks of the enemy here. Satan has many tools in his toolbox and he knows how to go after both groups and individuals. Look at the letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation, chapters 2-3. Different churches face different challenges.

  • Some face physical attacks.
  • Some have economic penalties for following Jesus.
  • Some are being challenged to put a stop to sinful behavior from within, rather than try to find some kind of compromise as they had been doing.
  • Some are so prosperous they have wandered away from their desperate need for Jesus to sustain them.
  • Some of them are just going through the motions, hoping their fellow church members don’t notice.

All of these are ways that Satan persecutes the church, not just through burning buildings down and killing anyone who calls on the name of the Lord. The best tool is used for each job, and all of the jobs are one form or another of persecution. You may recognize some of these tactics in the churches near you. Perhaps even your own. It happens, and Jesus does give His commands on how to address these situations. To do anything less than what Jesus commands is to assume that your way is more loving than the one who gave His life for you.

There are ways to stand against the attacks on your church. There are right ways. There are wrong ways. The right ways involve prayer and a multitude of wise voices. The best ways remember that we are blessed WHEN we are reviled and persecuted. We don’t pursue abuse for the sake of a blessing, but the blessing gives us hope to endure. If you orchestrate some persecution for yourself and live-stream the persecution, hoping to go viral, congratulations. You already received your reward in full.

It is good to look at all of the words Jesus says here. When people say or tweet mean things about us, we shouldn’t automatically begin the persecution party (Acts 5:41). Let’s look at the qualifiers that Jesus gives to help us determine when we are blessed. For your sake, I’ll share the verses again. It’s also for my sake so I don’t have to scroll my screen or switch tabs so often. Don’t make this awkward. Read it again!

Matthew 5:11-12 ESV
“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.

When you (individually or collectively) are suffering, it is not a bad idea to examine yourself. Is this slander true or false? Could it be an honest misunderstanding? Did someone accuse your church of misusing funds? Double check to be sure everything is on the up and up. Did someone say that you hate other people because you don’t accept the spirit of the age? Examine yourself and see if you do hold hate for people. While you’re at it, make sure that it is correct that you reject the spirit of the age. Make sure that your communication regarding the matter is filled with gentleness and respect while honoring Christ as holy (1 Peter 3:15). And also notice that Jesus said we were blessed when the slander is false AND when it is on His account. That means that even when an accusation is false, you can’t yet dance a jig. Was the action against you done because you were doing what Jesus would have you be doing?

Churches have been fined and shut down for meeting together during a time when the government objected. SWAT teams have been involved, dressed in riot gear. In the Western hemisphere, this has been well documented in Canada. The Bible is very clear about the need for Christians to meet together. Jesus is Lord. Lord of the Church. Lord of Lords. The government can claim authority, but ALL authority has been given to Jesus. Faithful churches who reopened and suffered for it are blessed! It doesn’t always feel that way when the pastor is in jail, but the Canadian pastors who suffered are merely following in the same footsteps that the Apostles walked in. And when your footsteps match the Apostles and the Prophets, you can take that as a sign that your feet are facing in the right direction.

Matthew 10:16 ESV
Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

Addendum: I use the name of the deceiver/accuser to refer to all of the forces he has amassed to go after the people of God. The demonic activity against you or me are probably not being done by the same one who tempted Eve in the garden. Probably not the same one who tempted Jesus in the wilderness. God can be everywhere at once. Satan cannot. Most likely, he’s never heard of you.

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