Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven – a sermon on Matthew 5:10 by Rev. Colin Pretorius.
In the book of Acts we read how the Spirit of God had come upon the followers of Christ at Pentecost and how they started going around proclaiming the good news of Jesus. Some of them were imprisoned for this but an angel of the Lord set them free and they continued proclaiming the good news of Jesus. This time they were brought before the Sanhedrin, and they were flogged and warned not to speak in the name of Jesus. Yet, when they left, they rejoiced because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for Christ’s name.
But suffering for Christ, or suffering because you believe in Christ, is not just something that happened in biblical times. In the late 1940’s the Lutheran pastor Richard Wurmbrand preached the gospel of Christ in Romania. He also defied the government by opposing their control of the churches. He was arrested and jailed for almost 14 years. During his time in jail he was brutally and ruthlessly tortured by the secret police. He was eventually released after international pressure and continued his ministry and his book “Tortured for Christ” made the world aware of the terrible persecution in his country.
Today, throughout the world, many Christians are being persecuted for their faith. Think about our fellow believers in Afghanistan or North Korea, the two countries where Christians are most persecuted. In 2021 more than 5100 churches were burnt down and almost 5900 Christians were murdered across the world. And yet Jesus says blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. How can this be? In answering this, let’s look at 4 things this morning:
- The counter-cultural nature of the beatitudes;
- The meaning of the persecution that Jesus talks about;
- The meaning of the righteousness Jesus is talking about and why those seeking righteousness will be persecuted; and
- Lastly, how we should respond to persecution.