Thursday, July 7, 2011

Blessed are the persecuted? (Part 2)

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

This continues an exploration of Matthew 5:10-12, where Christ teaches that those who are persecuted are blessed. How do we understand this passage when so often we in the West consider ourselves blessed for living in freedom? Today, we’ll look at three principles regarding persecution.

In order to gain Jesus’ perspective on the blessedness of persecution, it is essential that we understand what He is teaching in this central passage. Several principles regarding persecution stand out from this passage:
  1. The most basic, but not to be overlooked, principle is that this suffering is “on my account.” It is for Christ's cause. Men and women suffer in His service for the fulfillment of His purposes in the world. Ultimately, God's people do not suffer for their faith; they suffer for Him.
  2. Jesus directs the disciples’ attention to the fate of the prophets, God's messengers in past generations. He means to instruct that they, like Him, are in the line of the prophets; they are God's messengers to the world of their time. They have been chosen specifically for this purpose—to preach God's message given to them by Jesus. After Jesus was killed, they would take His place and continue His ministry. In Matthew 16, Jesus will shock them with the assertion that in order to accomplish the purposes of God, it was necessary for Him and for all who follow after Him to take up their cross. Suffering, sacrifice, and rejection are the norm for those who truly serve as God's messengers. Christ's cross will provide the means of salvation; the disciple's cross will provide the means by which this salvation is taken to the world. Christ's cross is for propitiation; the disciple's cross is for propagation. Both crosses are needed if the message of the kingdom is to be taken into a world in rebellion to its Creator.
  3. The disciples are not only to stoically accept the evil done to them by others, but they are to rejoice and be glad. Later in verses 39, 44 and 45, they are instructed to love those who persecute them. As witnesses, their role was to bring the persecutors to God and to salvation. The persecuted are to be in service to those who cause them suffering. Just as the Father gives light and rain to those who revile Him and refuse to love Him, so are His children to bring blessings to those who curse them, seeking the good for those who seek only to do them harm.
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 on this topic, please check out his book, In the Shadow of the Cross, at www.persecution.net/catalogue

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