In reading the beatitudes lately something struck me differently than it had before. I have read the beatitudes my entire life and these two things did not previously occur to me. They may have occurred to everyone else on the planet, but they are a new revelation to me.
First, at the beginning of Matthew 5 it says “Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciplines came to him and he began to teach them.” What struck me about this, is apparently Jesus did not go up on the mountain side merely to teach, but to sit down. He did not teach until his disciplines “came to him”. What if the disciplines had never gone to him? Would the beatitudes still be? Would that specific teaching still happened that day? Would it have happened another day? Obviously we do not have answers to these questions, but it does set a precedent that if we come to Jesus, if we seek out Jesus, he will teach us what he wants us to know. Which makes me wonder, if more of us “came to Jesus” as the disciples did on that day, what would He teach us? Instead of just thinking we know what Jesus would do, what if we got on our knees and asked him? What if we asked him every single day to replace our heart with his heart … how differently would we see the world?
Secondly, Matthew 5:10 says “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Verse 11 says “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Many people skip over this entirely and believe these 2 verses are saying the same thing. I disagree. I believe Jesus is not repeating himself, but is talking about 2 sides of a coin. I believe verse 10 is speaking of individuals who are persecuted for being a follower of Christ. The people who must meet in private or be arrested. Living in or being part of the world where being a Christian is against the law and discriminated against. I believe this is not a huge problem in the United States. It may occur in isolated incidents, but by and large, this is not an issue most Americans deal with on a daily basis.
However, verse 11 strikes a different chord with me … “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” This strikes me as something that happens in America all the time. Could it be that verse 11 is talking about people who hate others in the name of Jesus? “Blessed are you when people insult you” (say you are not a Christian and not worthy of Christian love), “persecute you” (say you are lesser and should not be allowed the same rights as others) and falsely say all kinds of evil against you (you are an abomination to God and God hates you) because of me (say these things in the name and authority of Jesus Christ.)
Could it also be Jesus was calling out and encouraging the brave people who stood up against the organized institution of church and said you have got this wrong … this is not a reflection of Christ … and they were persecuted for their beliefs? Could he be referring to individuals who go against the grain and tell individuals the church is wrong, God DOES NOT hate YOU? Could these people he was referring to as being persecuted … be not only those who are being lied to; but those who are being lied about?
There are people all across this nation who are tired. Tired of being beaten and battered. Weary of being made to feel lesser and constantly being told they are wrong or unworthy. The church unfortunately has become a battle ground and the Bible has become a weapon. There are wounded children of God laying all over our sanctuaries and prayer rooms. Sadly some have left and refuse to return because the pain is too much. It is time for this to stop. It is time for true followers of Christ to express in tangible, measureable ways the love of Christ to these hurting people. It is time to BE Christ to these people. We must preserve and protect Christ from the institution of the church. We can no longer afford to just DO better, we must BE better.
Which brings me to the GOOD NEWS. The good news is in verse 12. Verse 12 says “Rejoice and be glad (when this happens), because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets, who were before you.”
Remember the prophets were persecuted because they went against the established church. They went against the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The prophets were persecuted when they taught the kingdom of heaven was available to everyone, specifically contradicting the list of people the church leaders of the time said were not fit for heaven. The prophets went against the same folks whom Jesus went against. The church leaders got it wrong on two levels. First they were wrong that an individual had to meet some “requirements” other than be a follower of Jesus Christ to be kingdom eligible. Secondly, the church leaders tried to say the prophets were telling lies and teaching things that were not true. Is any of this ringing a bell?
While the entire beatitudes are moving, encouraging and beautiful, I am forevermore thankful for verse 12 … the GOOD NEWS … the good news is a 3 part revelation. First and foremost, you are NOT an abomination to God … God does NOT hate you … God’s love for you is inexhaustible. Secondly, no human on earth can tell you, you are not kingdom worthy. And lastly, not only are you a child of God who is welcome in the kingdom of heaven, GREAT IS YOUR REWARD in heaven. Which not only means God loves you … it means he loves you relentlessly.