Summary: Examination of the eighth BE-Attitude: Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
PURSUING HAPPINESS: Persecuted for Righteousness
Matthew 5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”
2 Timothy 3:1-5; 10-12
1. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
• What a day to deal with the topic of persecution as we prepare to go on our annual church picnic immediately following this service.
• The contrast is so stark! Following this message our thoughts will immediately switch to barbequed meats, all kinds of salads, deserts, and cool drinks and more food than we can comfortably consume.
• We’ll laugh, listen to and catch up on each other’s latest news, and just have a jolly good time together.
• About the only hardship we might endure is getting too much of the hot sun.
• A day not too unlike many another Sunday here in Morton or anywhere else in the USA.
2. So what relevance does this final Be-Attitude from the introduction to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount have for us as Christians in the United States in 2006?
• Sure, we know that Christians in the early church suffered a great deal. Every one of the apostles, except John, died a martyr’s death for the faith.
• We know that many died horribly gruesome deaths in the Coliseum in Rome and elsewhere – eaten by lions, sawn in half, crucified, beheaded, dipped in tar, stuck on sharp posts and set alight to entertain the Emperor’s party guests and many more brutal atrocities.
• We may recall in more recent times, Christians like Dietrich Bonnhoeffer suffering and dying for his faith in Nazi Germany. Or Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, a Jewish believer in Christ who was arrested in 1948 and spent 14 years being brutally tortured in a Romanian prison for his faith in Christ.
• Some of us are also aware that in many other parts of the world today Christians are being targeted for harassment, beatings, and even execution for their commitment to Jesus Christ.
David Barrett of the World Evangelization Research Center writes, “In one part of the globe, over 10,000 Christians have been killed every year since 1950, due to clashes with anti-Christian mobs, infuriated relatives, state-organized death squads, and so on.”
Barrett’s statistics in fact reveal that deaths of Christians for their faith have shown a marked upsurge since the 1900’s when there used to be around 35,000 a year to the last few years when the figures are up around 260,000 a year!
Here’s a report from just last Sunday in India: While Pastor K. K. Jwala was conducting a worship service on August 20th in the town of Sheopur, not far from Jhalsy in Central India’s Madhya Pradesh state, a group of Hindu radicals stormed his Christian meeting. The militant mob, headed by a local Hindu leader, disrupted the Sunday morning service at approximately 10:30. Once inside, the attackers mercilessly struck Pastor Jwala and several members of the congregation with hockey sticks.
After the brutal beatings took place, Pastor Jwala and a number of his congregants were taken to the police station. Jwala was charged with violating Sections 3 and 4 of the Madhya Pradesh Anti-Conversion Act. He and other Christians attending the service, including three teachers from South India, remain in jail. None of the believers were granted bail.
Earlier this month, legislation in Madhya Pradesh passed anti-conversion bills targeting Christians. These so-called “Freedom of Religion” bills make it mandatory for people to apply for permission to change their religion 30 days before the desired date of conversion. The district collector reserves the right to decline any request, and those not conforming to the new laws face punishment of up to one year’s imprisonment and a fine of 10,000 rupees ($215 U.S.). The radical Hindu BJP party was a primary force in getting these anti-conversion laws passed.
3. Well, we can listen to these disturbing and tragic stories and then comfort ourselves that we live in these United States where thankfully we have and enjoy the freedom to pursue and exercise our faith without restriction, harassment, or persecution of any kind.
• Well that was exactly what I thought, growing up in South Africa – a country that professed to be Christian – that enforced laws protective of the sanctity of human life, that prohibited the pursuit of business on the Lord’s Day, that saw to it that Bible instruction was incorporated in the public school curriculum, and many other reminders that I was privileged to grow up in a country favorably disposed to Christians.