Friday, July 8, 2011

Blessed are the persecuted? (Part 3)

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

This article concludes our three-part exploration of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, where Jesus states the persecuted are blessed. Below are the remaining principles regarding persecution that we can learn from Jesus’ teaching. 

4. There are tremendous past, present, and future promises that the persecuted can take hold of. In verse 10, the disciples are assured, along with the “poor in spirit” (v.3), that they are possessors of the kingdom of heaven. The parallel between the two is not accidental. The "poor in spirit" are those to whom the message of the gospel has been preached by the Servant of God (see Isaiah 61:1).

In turn, like the Servant, they have been rejected and despised because they have taken up the Servant's mission: to proclaim the gospel to all nations. They have therefore become possessors of the kingdom of heaven, partakers in a sovereignty ruled by God. This kingdom is already partially present, experienced in part by those who, by faith, have submitted to God's kingly rule over their lives. Its final culmination is still in the future and it is that which the disciples anticipate. In the present, however, they experience ridicule, persecution, and slander (verse 11), as they actively seek to bring others into the kingdom. The additional promise of verse 12 differs from those in the preceding Beatitudes in that it is much more complex. The promise to the persecuted in verse 12 is declared in two causal clauses. The first looks forward to the reward in heaven; the second looks back to the pattern of suffering experienced by the prophets in God's redemptive plan. Disciples are assured that that they will be rewarded in heaven for their service for God. There is hope of better things because of the coming kingdom of God. They are also assured, as we noted earlier, that suffering for the sake of the kingdom is not unusual; indeed, it is the experience of all of God's messengers. The persecuted stand in good company and can be assured that God is present in their ministry. Because of these future and past promises, they can rejoice in the present (verse 12).

5. Persecution will be inevitable. The language used here depicts a situation where persecution is the expected norm for those who choose to follow Him. Jesus wants His disciples to understand right from the start that the path of Christ is not always an easy one. It is the right path, however, even though the world will sometimes move beyond ridicule, misunderstanding, and denunciation to violent rejection—seeking not only to silence the message of the gospel, but to remove the very presence of the messenger.

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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