“Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake, for Theirs Is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed Are You When People Revile 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 in the Same Way They Persecuted the Prophets who Were Before You.”
Believers trust in God and try to live according to their understanding of God’s ways. We would all like to be part of the kingdom of heaven, to be comforted, to inherit the earth, to be filled with righteousness, to receive mercy and to be called children of God. We don’t want to mourn, but we accept that loss is part of the human condition.
Nobody wants to be persecuted for any reason. Nobody wants to be persecuted for what they believe, how they look, or for their culture. How much worse it is to be persecuted for being honest and true, for working and witnessing to bring God’s righteousness into this world, for believing that all people are worthy of God’s love. No one wants this, yet it happens all the time. Throughout the ages and all over the world people have been and still are persecuted for believing and living out their faith.
Jesus gave his followers fair warning. The other Beatitudes refer to “those who…” the final Beatitude addresses followers directly: “Blessed are you…” In other words, the time would come when believers would be persecuted. They were, too. Thrown out of their jobs and their families. Literally thrown to the lions.
That was then, this is now. Christians are no longer persecuted in western societies. Perhaps this is because so many people have grown up knowing about Jesus, and therefore take no offense. Or perhaps this toleration is born of indifference; Christians are not persecuted because fewer and fewer people take much interest in religion and matters of faith, and nobody much cares.
But perhaps believers have blended into the social fabric so thoroughly that we can no longer see that its values are very far from the life Jesus offers.