“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10
Think about the times you’ve been in conflict with someone else. Consider the circumstances and the rest of the situation and see if you can identify the primary reason for the conflict. In most cases I believe that the reason comes down to competing differences. We all have overlapping needs but different ideas about how those needs ought to be met; we have different values and this too affects the way we want to address our needs.
When it comes to the spiritual parts of life there is a natural incompatibility between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of this world. The values of these two kingdoms are very different from one another with a number standing in direct opposition to the other. These differences create an abundance of opportunities for prejudice, misunderstanding, competition and conflict.
Often I here people in Christian circles talking about some clash they experienced at work or school between their conscientious spiritual principles and those of the secular world and they refer to these confrontations as persecution. In most cases I don’t believe that the situations fit what I would consider to be persecution. There was no intentional provoking of the Christian; the people involved in the other side of the conflict were merely pursuing a competing agenda. Such conflicts are normal and ought to be expected as long as we’re in this sin filled world.
In the final beatitude Jesus tells us that we also ought to expect actual persecution. He tells us that his followers are actually blessed when those in opposition to the cause of God direct their attention and focus their attacks on them because they love and follow him.
Many people think that something has gone horribly wrong when these trials come into their lives. And they’re right, but the problem isn’t a new one. It’s the same problem that’s existed for as long as there’s been sin, what they’re experiencing is just the latest manifestation of that conflict between God and Satan, sin and righteousness.
Jesus says you’re blessed when you encounter these persecutions because they tell you that yours is the kingdom of heaven. Notice that he says that this is a present, not a future, condition. The conflict and persecutions regarding your relationship with God come because you have a relationship with God. The kingdom of this world directs its attacks toward you because you’re now a part of the kingdom of God. Jesus goes on to say that you ought to rejoice because the world has always directed its attacks against his warriors, the prophets, and now your a part of that number.
It’s not easy, or pleasant, to go through trials and tribulations, but if you expect them you can be prepared, and if you’re prepared you’re ready to hold onto your faith and be an overcomer.