Jesus says quite a few “hard sayings” in this passage.
Yeah, being a nice guy, keeping the peace etc I can understand.
I get that.
But Jesus also said we gotta take on a lot of not-so-nice things.
We are, at first glance at the passage, expected to suffer – and really feel good about it??
He’s obviously not talking about masochism here.
All this sounds very religious, Christian and self-sacrificing.
But I gotta be brutally honest.
I mean, if anyone but the Lord Jesus had said it, I would have looked at them and said
“Are you for real?? What do I get out of all this? Do we have to go through all this stuff?”
Like …being spiritually poor?
…mourning? Do I get out the sackcloth & ashes?
…and how do I get hungry & thirsty for this righteousness?
….being insulted, persecuted, evil spoken of?
Let’s read it in the Amplified Version.
3 “Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].
4 “Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are those who mourn [over their sins and repent], for they will be comforted [when the burden of sin is lifted].
5 “Blessed [inwardly peaceful, spiritually secure, worthy of respect] are the gentle [the kind-hearted, the sweet-spirited, the self-controlled], for they will inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [those who actively seek right standing with God], for they will be [completely] satisfied.
7 “Blessed [content, sheltered by God’s promises] are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 “Blessed [anticipating God’s presence, spiritually mature] are the pure in heart [those with integrity, moral courage, and godly character], for they will see God.
9 “Blessed [spiritually calm with life-joy in God’s favour] are the makers and maintainers of peace, for they will [express His character and] be called the sons of God.
10 “Blessed [comforted by inner peace and God’s love] are those who are persecuted for doing that which is morally right, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].
11 “Blessed [morally courageous and spiritually alive with life-joy in God’s goodness] are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil things against you because of [your association with] Me.
12 Be glad and exceedingly joyful, for your reward in heaven is great [absolutely inexhaustible]; for in this same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
That sounds a lot better, doesn’t it? And Paul adds this:
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
But does knowing all about these heavenly benefits really help us – in practical terms – when we’re actually going through persecution and all the other hard times?
I’ve come to these conclusions, out of what I’ve learnt so far:
- We are not expected to jump up and down with glee when it’s all coming down on us, but we are called to bear it patiently at the time.
“….we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure,” (2 Thess 1:4)
- This patience is born out of the hope (that’s expectation, not wishful thinking) that all the above promises will come good eventually – in this life or the next.
- When we’ve been through a period of persecution, then we can look back with joy that God has considered us strong enough to take it. That’s what the apostles thought after fronting the Sanhedrin:
“So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:41)
Consider Jesus Himself “…. the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
- I like to look on it as an investment in the future, for the kingdom of God, for those in my sphere of influence, and for my benefit as well.
The comparatively few times that I’ve suffered injustice and scorn for being a Christ-follower (although it's NOTHING compared to all the martyrs of history, and those suffering and dying for Him today!) has made me a better man.
I know the expression “character-building” makes us groan, but I can appreciate this a lot more now, and it will help me take it better in the future as well.
- But really, it’s not really about the Great Almighty Me at all. It’s all about Jesus and His Kingdom. It’s getting an eternal perspective.
Whenever I get things out of perspective and hold a “pity-me party”, I need to give myself a shake, and realize I’m part of something Huge, whatever my feelings shout at me.
Whenever I’ve done that, I can look back with joy, and feel blessed.