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 5:11-12 ESV]
There is a war raging between those who are unrighteousness and God who has given righteousness to those covered by the shed blood of the sacrifice of His Son. It is not us against them. It is a creature fighting against their Creator because the creature covets the Creator’s place and authority. What audacity.
This war is a three-pronged attack against righteousness. Those declared righteous, who represent God are attacked by Satan, the great deceiver, by the world and its tugs and pulls, and by our own flesh, still corrupted by sin. God’s Spirit lives within those who belong to Him, the guarantee of eternity with Him, even while under constant attack.
As the Christian grows in the way God designed, in faith and obedience while standing before God and the world, God blesses while the world curses them. Obedience to Him is not dependent upon circumstances. His word is absolute and the obedience He demands is absolute. This does not mean we, while in the world, will always absolutely obey all His statements. We are still in the world, still enveloped in the flesh, still attacked by Satan. Yet, nothing God’s enemies can do will remove us from His presence or snatch us from His hand.
At times it may seem His enemies are winning but they are not.
Matthew 5:11-12 is considered by many as one of the “beatitudes” because it begins with the same word “blessed” as the first seven statements. However, there is a substantial difference between what we are supposed to be, as described in the preceding seven statements and what happens to us when we are what we are supposed to be. In these seven statements Jesus tell us what God is making of all who are His. We are becoming what He wants. If we are what He wants then the evidence of the world is hatred toward us. Suffering for righteousness’ sake is evidence of Christ’s righteousness covering those who are His.
Those who think incorrectly about these statements may realize a subtle disconnect when Satan and our own flesh suggest we think and act like the world. Suffering tends to direct attention toward self and the subtle suggestion follows that God is uncaring and arbitrary. Focusing upon Him, and the passion of His Son, reveals the lie and the truth. Suffering is a consequence of sin. Persecution because of righteousness is a direct attack against God, who cannot be touched, levied against those who can be touched.
We may not feel the physical pain of torture or death, the agony of pain directed against family or friends, but all Christians are still affected by the persecution of the Church. We are a body, a unit, with Christ as head. When one part suffers all parts suffer for all are connected.
Yet, suffering for righteousness’ sake is more than persecution brought upon the Christian by the world. Part of the process God brings each through is the recognition of sin and the realization of its consequences which brings intense mourning. Sin is active unrighteousness and those who repent and turn away from it will face sin’s daily harassment. Some of the suffering faced by Christians is physical. Most is internal, the emotional tension to distrust God.
No one can fight this war in their own strength, by their own will. Trying is failing. God is making those who are His into the image of His Son, a preparation for eternity with Him. What He has begun He will finish. Nothing the world does will stop Him, for He is making a new person, down to the essence of the person. Once He recreates there can be no compromise. We will experience the grief of the world and our flesh but who we are is fixed and only has to grow. From conception to maturity who the person is they will become, growing into who they are. This is a mystery to the finite mind. For an infinite God all is clear.
We are to love those who hate God. Jesus has told us what God is making us. He has told us how the world will react, with hatred. Next, He is going to tell us how He will use us in the world.