“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely on account of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’” (Matthew 5:10-12)
I love our Lord’s honesty – I love it. His first sermon, He starts out, “Happy, happy” – you say, “Boy, the first time in, you just want to kind of smooth the waters. Just let them know how neat it is to be a Christian. Tell them how wonderful” – and I’m telling you, the first thing He ever said set standards so high, they must have fallen flat over on their backs. And then when He gets all done, He says, “And by the way, if you want to live this way, you will be persecuted and chased out of your jobs, your homes, your society. You will find yourself reviled; that is, people will speak vilely and viciously against you, and you will find inevitably that they will say things about you that are not true, they are lies. They are lies. So get ready for that. That’s right. It’s going to happen. It’s inevitable.” Why does it happen? Why does it have to be this way? Why is it that if we live God’s way in this world, why does it have to be this way? Well, that’s the why. Why? Look at verse 10. “Blessed are they who are persecuted for” – what? – “righteousness’ sake.” Look at the end of verse 11, the end of the verse. “For My sake.”
You know why they persecute you? I’m going to tell you something shocking. They really don’t hate you. That’s comforting, isn’t it? They really don’t hate you. Who do they hate? Christ. And it really isn’t you that they resent, it’s the life you live, you see. And our Lord Jesus, in John 15 and John 16, said to His disciples, “Look, if they killed me, they’ll kill you, and if they hate me, they’ll hate you, and if they persecuted me, they’ll persecute you as long as they know that you belong to me.” Jesus revealed holiness in action to an unholy world. Do you want to know something? The world went along a long time and never saw a perfect man. That’s right. Never saw a perfect man. And the longer they went and never saw a perfect man, the more smug they became in their contented sinfulness.
When Jesus came into the world, the world saw a perfect man. And all of a sudden, it blew apart all their self-confidence. It destroyed the basis on which they had stood. And in the face of a perfect man, they felt rebuked, and so they killed that perfect man. Because if you can’t meet the standard, they said, wipe it out so it isn’t around. That’s the way it’ll always be. And as you and I allow Christ to live through us, we will set a standard that they can’t attain, and because they can’t attain that standard, they will desire to remove the standard so they can remain in the contentedness of their delusion. It’s for righteousness’ sake.
Do you know what it is to live such a godly life that you become a rebuke to people around you? Not because you’re obnoxious, not because you’re proud, not because you’re demanding, not because you’re authoritarian, not because you talk too much, but because there’s too much of Christ manifest in you. There’s too much of that perfection that the world can’t tolerate. Are you willing to pay the price? Are you willing to live the way God wants you to live, to live out the kingdom life, to be a living illustration of the Beatitudes whatever the price and to bear the reproach of Jesus Christ? Are you willing to take your cross like He took it? Are you willing to suffer the loss of all things that you may gain the kingdom? Are you willing to pay any price? That’s what Jesus is asking for, and those are the only kind of people who change the world for His glory.
Adapted from a message by John MacArthur “Happy Are The Harassed-Part 1”.