Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Don't Hurt Me!

I'm wrapping up my eons long review of the Beatitudes. I could probably start all over again and have all new thoughts regarding these biblical truths, but you have to know when to move on. So, I'm moving on right after this one. The final two Beatitudes in my opinion are one:

"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." 
- Matthew 5:10-12

this is not my t-shirt. Mine was awesome.
Why did I jump right into the scripture? Why didn't I start off with some story about how I've been persecuted? "Once I told someone I loved Jesus...and they punched me in the face!" Nope, that didn't happen. I have not been the victim of religious persecution, and honestly I can't think of a single thing in my life that is analogous to the horrors of religious martyrdom. I want to say that right off.  I can't tell you about "persecution" in pre-school for wearing a Cookie Monster t-shirt every day. That just wasn't for the sake of Christ. I can't tell you about my "persecution" on the school bus in high school for that curly weave. That weave (in hindsight) was a mistake AND not for the sake of Christ. I can't tell those because 1) they are not comparable to the suffering alluded to in Matthew 5, and 2) they hold no value (neither eternally or in those moments). But there is a persecution that is valuable, even if no one wants it.
In every blog, I've juxtaposed the seemingly insane beatitude with the divine help of the Holy Spirit. This one is no different. From a human standpoint, I think persecution is the very LAST thing we ever want to happen to us. If I were a 1st century Jew waiting for a spiritual-political Savior King to rescue me from current persecution and avenge persecutions past, the Sermon on the Mount would be almost insulting. I almost said I would throw rocks...then I realized, that's what first century Jews would do! We're in sync. Persecution = NO.

Yet, I doubt you'll find any other experience advocated as much (in scripture):

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. - 2 Timothy 3:12

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.." - John 15:18 

...but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  - 1 Peter 4:13-14

There are tons of scriptures about persecution, all with a positive twist. But I use these three, in conjunction with our main verse (Matt 5:10-12) to demonstrate the three benefits of persecution (that are not it's blatantly stated reward):

Prescription - a prescription is something that is suggested as a way to make something happen. Paul told Timothy that that persecution was the prescription for those desiring godly lives. Is that medicine that you want to take?

Identification - There are two ways to be identified as disciples of Christ; one is loving one another (cf: John 13:35; which strangely, we also seem to take issue with) and the other is listed above: persecution. If you're hated for this gospel, know that it's only because you've continued the already hated work of Christ.

Celebration - The first two are cause for celebration. If you've taken your medicine, and stood with the hated, it means you are a partaker of and with Christ and that God's Spirit rests upon you.

And it's not coincidence that the Spirit of God (i.e. the Holy Spirit) make an appearance here. Wherever the Beatitude is, the Holy Spirit is standing by. As stated before, the Beatitudes are counter to human nature, so you need supernatural intervention. And the fruits of the spirit that (I believe) go with persecution are: gentleness and self-control.
  • Gentleness is acquiescence to authority and consideration of others
  • Self-control is the ability to control one's emotions, behavior, and desires in the face of external demands in order to function in society the kingdom of God. 
The gentleness sounds really easy, but that's hard. I know that I, personally, need the Holy Spirit to work gentleness in me, because I desperately want my own way. Period. The "authority" that we have to give in to isn't "the man", but rather it's God. That bit of knowledge doesn't automatically put down my little rebellions. And other people? Sadly, they rarely enter into my decision-making process. 
Total surrender to God's plans is supernaturally inspired. People often say: "Jesus gladly died for our sins." 

...perhaps we play too fast and loose with the word "gladly." Jesus (based on my reading comprehension), with much pain, acquiesced to the will of the Father in consideration of my (and billion's of others) sins. 

Then He *said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” - Matthew 26:38-40

Jesus came gently. That's the spirit He imparts to His believers.

Self-control? I think of this as having mastery over one's self in any situation, rather than letting the situation be master over you. I feel like Jesus displayed that. He said "no man takes my life, but I choose to lay it down" (paraphrase of John 10:18). Aside that Jesus says the coolest things, there's something about such a person allowing men to put their hands on Him. The things he allowed...

Persecution is the last step before glorification. I said from the start that the Beatitudes built up. And it started so simply with:

First Beatitude = Poor in Spirit (an attitude towards God)
First Fruit of the Spirit = Love (an attitude we must develop towards God)

It made me thing of the MOST popular scripture in all of Christendom:

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. - John 3:16
Love leads to sacrifice. For God, and for His followers.

The person who starts out recognizing that they had nothing to offer God, in their newfound love for God, ultimately feels led to sacrifice the one thing they can offer: their life. 

And like scripture says: For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 16:25). 

...can you say "paradox?"