Beatitues, part 8: Blessed are Those Persecuted for Righteousness
Ultimately, what do the Beatitudes celebrate as virtues?
Poor in spirit. Mourning. Meekness. Hunger and thirst for righteousness. Showing mercy. Pureness of heart. Making peace. Things not seen by our secular world as virtuous.
But the final Beatitude is the kicker.
I don’t know how the prosperity gospel ever came to be. Nor do I know how asinine arguments like this one from God is Imaginary could ever capture the imaginations of serious Bible readers.
Because Jesus said:
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 your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Mt 5:10-12)
This one of many times the theme of persecution is introduced into the Bible. In fact, one Bible teacher insists that there is at least one reference in all sixty-six books of the Bible to suffering for the sake of God’s kingdom.
Sorry, Marshall Brain. That means that we aren’t going to end suffering and death with prayer. Your argument fails.
Sorry, Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes and Ed Young and Kenneth Copeland and others who have bought your lie. God’s plan includes suffering.
In fact, to suffer is the ultimate virtue. Suffering imitates all of the great Old Testament prophets. When we are ridiculed for preaching God’s word, the word of God through Christ is confirmed to us. Christ said we’d suffer on his account.
We do. Look at the issues that set conservative Christians apart from the secular world.
We oppose gay marriage. Which means we are denying our fellow human beings their right to marry a suitable partner whom they love. That makes us bigoted and homophobic.
The UK denies Christian parents the right to adopt children because of our beliefs on homosexuality. They don’t want that part of our Christianity passed on to the next generation.
It was nearly a requirement for Canadian homeschooling parents to teach that homosexuality is normal and never mention to their children it’s a sin.
We oppose abortion. In the eyes of most, it means that we’d condemn a woman to death if the abortion was necessary to save her.
It means that we are backwards and misogynistic for forcing a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy. Not just rape, and not just incest — even a merely inconvenient pregnancy is forced servitude to a fetus that is nothing more than a parasite.
We believe that humanity is sinful and evil by nature. A person must be steered toward the right path because the natural inclination is always to the wrong. No one has to teach a child to lie. My four-year-old daughter tried reverse psychology on me recently — a primitive attempt at manipulation, but that’s exactly what it was.
A quick look through human history can show us how devastating humankind can be. How easily we take lives without a second thought. Hitler slaughtered Jews in a political power play. Look at China’s Mao Zedong and Cambodia’s Pol Pot. Russia’s Stalin.
Even the Bible shows examples. The Pharaoh in Exodus. Herod in Matthew. Ahab and Jezebel. Nebuchadnezzar.
That Christians dare point out the propensity to sin results in ridicule. How can anyone look at history and conclude mankind is good? Modern psychologists and philosophers manage to do just that, however. And who could blame them? No one wants to be the cause of evil.
Christians disown the Nazi ideology, the Crusades, and the Spanish Inquisition. In the same way, Muslims disown the 9/11 attacks while atheists disown Mao, Pol Pot, and Stalin. “Hitler wasn’t a true Christian,” we like to think. “9/11 is a perversion; Islam is a religion of peace,” the moderate Muslims declare. “Those guys didn’t kill in the name of atheism the way that the Crusades and the Inquisitors did!” says the atheist, trying to thrust the atrocities of religion back into the spotlight at the same time.
But the truth is all of us have the propensity toward evil.
Only a transformation of heart (see Ez 36:26; 2 Cor 5:17) will cure us, and only Christ offers that. But, when we offer the solution, the persecution takes an even more vicious turn.
We insist that Jesus is the only way to God. In our pluralistic society, all religions lead to God. God is at the summit of a mountain, they say, and every religion is a road up that mountain. Theology and practice are the foothills, but the closer we get to God at the summit the more the religions begin to look the same.
That Christianity stands opposed to such utter poppycock means to the world that we are intolerant. That we are impeding the self-actualization of generally good men and women who must find their own path to God.
But people aren’t generally good, so we’re not impeding anything.
So what is a Christian supposed to do with this persecution? James, brother of our Lord, says to count it joy. Jesus has a better pan for us. Tomorrow, we’ll see that take shape in the next part of the Sermon on the Mount.
Posted on March 12, 2012, in God, Religion and tagged 2 Corinthians 5, Beatitudes, Christian living, Ezekiel 36, Jesus, Jesus Christ, John 14, Matthew 5, persecution. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.
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