Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Blessed are the persecuted? (Part 1)

Do you consider the persecuted
to be blessed?
Written by Glenn Penner 

We originally ran this series by Glenn Penner back in July 2006. Its challenging message is too relevant not to share again! Join us as we explore “Blessed are the persecuted?” in the next three days. 

Isn't it ironic that whereas the early Christians expressed gratitude for the privilege of suffering for Christ, we often thank God for the privilege of not suffering for Him? We say that we are blessed for living in a country where we are not being persecuted. Yet, we fail to reconcile this with what Jesus said in Matthew 5, when He declared that blessed are those who are persecuted. It is the persecuted who gain the kingdom of heaven.

Unfortunately, the Beatitudes are so familiar to many of us that I suspect they have lost their intended impact. We do not feel the sting that the early listeners must have felt when Jesus calls “blessed” those whom the world calls unfortunate or even cursed. He congratulates those whom the world would pity. He encourages attitudes and conduct that the world would discourage: the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers.

Now, conceivably, we might be able to see positive aspects to each of these first seven attitudes. But in verse 10, Jesus calls “blessed” those whom I would suspect almost no one would consider blessed: those who suffer for doing what is right.

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).

Glenn Penner, former CEO of The Voice of the Martyrs Canada, passed away in January 2010. Glenn was passionate about researching and teaching the theology of persecution. For more of his writing, you can check out his book, In the Shadow of the Cross, at www.persecution.net/catalogue

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