I was reading today in Matthew 5, which is the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. What struck me, partially because it took so long to read that only got through the Beatitudes, were some things in the Beatitudes. First of all, there's a lot fewer words than in English, because to say 'they shall be filled' takes only 1 word in Greek. True, it's a long word, but it's just one. Makes me wonder about how we manage to use so many words and say so little. It's a question I often ask myself about my writing and my preaching. Do I really need to use so many words to say what needs said? I'm often perplexed when I read the texts of great sermons of the past, and realize I could read that, out loud, in about 15 minutes. And this is a sermon that impacted more people than I ever have...
What I saw in Matthew 5 was that the Beatitudes start and end with the same promise, that for a group of people 'theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' We often go through the Beatitudes as if they are individual groups. For example, the poor in spirit get this, the meek get that, the mourners this, and so on.
I don't think that's right. I was seeing today that list as all inclusive: starting with 'poor in spirit' and ending with 'persecuted for righteousness.' Jesus says of both of these 'theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' All of the rest of the types of people are components of being poor in spirit, and the natural consequence of all of this is being persecuted for righteousness. Folks, we cannot escape the sheer reality that if we obey Christ, we will hunger and thirst for righteousness, which can be a spiritual hunger, but can also mean that we lack food and water, we will mourn, we will be merciful, we will be pure in heart, and because of doing these things, we will be persecuted. It is time for we, as American Christians, to stop thinking that the Christian life is intended to be easy. It's not. You notice that in verse 12, the Lord Himself simply states that 11 "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
Matt 5:11 (NASB)
Which is not followed with a passive 'you will be' but instead with this command:
12 "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matt 5:12 (NASB)
At some point, righteousness leads to persecution by the people around us who are not the people of God! This is not about our best life now, or health, wealth, prosperity or success. It's about righteousness and reward in heaven. The Christian life contains few guarantees for this earth, except that God is with us, and that people will hate us for loving Him.
So, let's get ready for it, and stop clinging to worldly approval.