Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous is one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. [Hebrews 10:35-39 ESV]
Righteousness is given, never earned. When God originally created Adam He created him righteous. Adam and Eve were created for relationship with God, according to His good purpose. They were made free people, in God’s image, to fulfill a purpose which would illustrate God’s and their righteousness.
Adam sinned and his purpose was corrupted, stopping his desire for righteousness. He hid from God, evidence of his rebellion against God’s righteousness.
As the head of the human race Adam’s rebellion rendered all people incapable of either desiring or achieving righteousness. Instead, we run after unrighteousness, we live according to a standard diametrically opposed to God’s standard of righteous living. We cannot, ultimately do not want to, live up to the moral standard God placed within those He created in His image.
Once purpose is violently altered it can never be returned to its original state. If we are to become righteous according to God’s character and moral law then we must be changed, made different, recreated. We must be given not only the place but the being of one who lives uncorrupted before Him.
In Matthew 5:6 Jesus says those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness” will be filled, satisfied, given righteousness. Having been recreated through the process of owning their sin and hating it, of allowing themselves to see the ultimate consequences of their sin and grieve the consequence. Here, people discover their complete inability to do anything which pleases God and give back to Him control. They see a standard of righteousness previously hidden and begin striving for God. Changed, recreated and given His Spirit, they show the evidence of God’s moral character by loving God and those around them. A citizen of God’s kingdom is righteous because of the sacrifice of His Son and the indwelling of the Spirit. Citizens live out God’s righteousness in a world encompassed by sin.
Yet, Jesus gives a startling prediction. Those who truly seek righteousness will be persecuted by those who seek unrighteousness.
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. [Matthew 5:10-12 ESV]
Christians will be hated, reviled, tormented, persecuted, even killed by those who continue in unrighteousness. We are to seek the very thing which brings us peace with God but elicits bitter hatred and conflict from the world.
Christians do not offer a tangible threat to the world. If anything, Christians offer the world peace and love. True Christians, not the legalists who call themselves Christians, attend church and do acts of service but have no heart for Christ. Legalists would enslave the world under a law attributed to God but not coming from Him. Those changed by God and being made into His likeness, want those of the world to have peace with God.
Jesus fed, healed, and forgave those who hated Him. We are to do the same. God allowed those in the world, the religious and worldly authorities of the time, to crucify His Son. Jesus knew His mission while living the will of God. He was murdered by the people He came to save. Those who persecute a people who mean them no harm, a people who have been given the righteousness of God, find themselves under His wrath.
Jesus tells us we will be persecuted because of Him, because of righteousness’ sake, and for no other reason.