Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, or theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus taught in the Beatitudes that you are blessed when persecuted for His sake. He goes on to say that you are blessed when people insult you and make evil accusations against you because of your love for Christ. The Greek word for blessed, mekarios, means “filled with joy that comes only from a relationship with Christ.” It is not dependent on happiness, which depends on circumstances; it comes from deep within as a soul satisfied and content. In the state of blessedness, deep security and love are felt amidst persecution. It does not matter what is said about you, your inner soul rises above the intended arrows.
Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. (Acts 6:8) Opposition arose among members of the synagogue, and these men began to argue with Stephen. However, they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.
(v.10) So they stirred up the people against him, seized him and brought him before the Sanhedrin. They produced false witnesses against him and charged him with death by stoning. When Stephen listened to their false testimony, his face shone like the face of an angel. (v.15)
What catches my attention in the story about Stephen is that his face displayed what was going on inside of his soul. He visually expressed the state of “blessedness” that Jesus describes when persecuted – rising above the circumstances – filled with peace.
You may not recall being persecuted directly for your faith, but what about the time where you mentioned the name of Jesus and people recoiled?
Or perhaps the time where you mentioned to someone that you read your Bible and they looked at you like you were an alien. Persecution may seem like a strong word in those cases, but nevertheless, every time you witness for Christ you may face rejection.
Have you been fearful to share your faith in concern for persecution, or more likely rejection? Ask the Lord to fill you with His righteousness, bearing rejection for the sake of entering the kingdom.
Heavenly Father, I have feared being persecuted for my faith and have been unwilling to share my faith with others. Fill me with Your righteousness so that I will not fear what men can do, but only fear what denying You could mean. In Jesus’ name, Amen