The Beatitudes: Day 11

Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted

by

Today's Text: Matthew 5:10-12, Philippians 1:27-30, 2 Timothy 3:10-17, 1 Peter 1:6-7

Text: Matthew 5:10-12, Philippians 1:27-30, 2 Timothy 3:10-17, 1 Peter 1:6-7

The internet is not for the faint of heart. Maybe you’ve noticed this, too. Behind the protection of a computer screen and social media, people lose their inhibitions and speak with a recklessness they wouldn’t otherwise. Strangers, acquaintances, and even friends launch virtual grenades that leave behind very real wounds.

I learned this lesson the hard way, soon after I started writing. Each week, I poured my heart and soul into words about Jesus, hoping to build up my readers while challenging them in their faith. I studied and prayed and edited and dreamed, and then, I released my ideas into the world. I remember hitting the “publish” button one of those first very times and, thirty minutes later, a comment appeared from one of my precious readers: “The author sounded whiney.”

Come to find out, this would be one of the gentler comments in a string of skin-thickening insults. It was my cold-splash initiation into the world of writing online, a world that is sometimes beautiful and sometimes brutal.

These experiences have taught me a lot over the years, but one lesson always stands out. When someone insults you, there is a subtle temptation lurking just behind it: to tear your critic down in the form of sympathy. “He is probably just a sad person,” or “Hurt people hurt people,” or “She’s just jealous.” I have said all of these things and more, and some of those assessments might even be true. But Jesus’ response to insults looks radically different.

In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus doesn’t focus on His critics’ motives. Instead, He points to the kingdom of God: “You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (vv. 11-12).

It doesn’t matter how you were brought low—you meek, you downtrodden, you spiritual misfits—because God works wonders among the lowly. If people slander you or insult you because of Christ’s name, you don’t have to cower and you don’t have to flee, because the other side of death is always, always resurrection. Not around the shame, but through it.

This, in many ways, is the entire message of the Beatitudes.

But the news gets even better. This Kingdom isn’t some far-off reality. We’re tasting it now. The blessing is already here. We rejoice, not because the reward is distant, but because it’s near. Amidst the insults, the name-calling, the persecution and the slander, God does some of His very best work. He heals. He humbles. He overcomes strongholds. He seizes our fragile idols and shatters them on the ground. He takes our shame and our humiliation and He makes them submit to His reign. And that, my friends, is why we rejoice.

We don’t have to be afraid. We don’t have to feel threatened or timid about the truth, as if we have to defend it, or ourselves, to keep our joy. The Beatitudes remind us that God’s upside down Kingdom doesn’t work that way. God’s ways are higher than our ways, and our call is to bear witness to that truth.

We don’t have to let the fear of insult or persecution sway us from obedience. Instead, we can step into it with confidence, knowing God’s good plans for the persecuted. Even in our hurt and shame, the Kingdom is breaking in, and our lives are a big, bright flashing signpost beckoning the world to Him.

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Sharon Hodde Miller is a writer, speaker, pastor’s wife, and mom of two boys. She is a regular contributor to Christianity Today and recently completed her Ph.D, which focused on cultivating the gifts of women in the church.

  • Persecution and suffering is a part of life. I will be honest, it sucks. I appreciate that the Bible does not lie about life though. It tells us plainly what life will be like. It also tells us the most wonderful thing. We are not alone.

  • Helena Rose

    So how should we respond to persecution?

  • Keri McCue

    I’m behind in finishing the Beatitudes study and boy oh boy was that totally God. He knew that today I would need to read this message. Seriously, so needed. I just love His timing!

    http://www.littlelightonahill.com

  • Phillipians 1:29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

    I read today’s lesson as this: the struggle is in loving people despite what they do. And to not judge them even if they hurt my feelings. To extend them the same grace that God shows me on a daily basis. To show them love in a way that still allows me to love myself. Phillipians 1:27 whatever happens, conduct yourself in a manner worthy of Christ.

    I love talking about my faith. But I generally do so only when asked. And if asked to contribute any manner, I pray that the words I speak are the one’s God wants me to say. Sometimes those words are scriptures that God gives me at just the right moment and sometimes they aren’t.

    Instead of evangelizing with my words, I try to do so by the life I lead. Actions scream louder than anything you can type on social media I think. If I radiate love and compassion to those who oppose me, I radiate Christ in the interaction. That creates plenty of room for God to step in and work on that person or group. I don’t have to war on God’s behalf. I’m here to act as Christ did and radiate his compassion.

    1 Peter 1:6-7 In all of this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kids if trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith… may result in praise, glory, and honor when Christ Jesus reveals himself.

    How do you prove the genuineness of your faith? By trusting in God and extending his grace to others. By loving no matter what. And by opposing all that is NOT love in a graceful and loving way.

    Thank you for adding to my understanding today, Sisters. I love and actively pray for each and every one of you!

    • Amelia

      Really great summary, thank you for the reminder of actions speaking louder than words. Sometimes we are the only bible that people get to read.

  • Carrie Rogers

    So encouraging to a sister that is wrapping up her first year of writing & sharing with the world. ❤️

  • As I have recently begun to step out and dig into my faith I have already ran into this. A comment coming from a person that I knew was directly meant to hurt another friend I. The conversations n and make the both of us feel like fools. I hesitated to take it down, but decided that the enemy wants me to fold, wants me to continue to hide. But even my mustard seed could make fishers of men. So I will continue to sprinkle my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into my social media accounts and watch whether these people begin to silence them selves, separate themselves from my friendship, or hopefully begin to believe. If I can offer a shred of hope to anyone, that is all I need of it. Thank you for this study. I did not read each day, but what I have read has me very excited for advent. I can remember coming across the beatitudes as a teenager thinking why haven’t we learned about this? We knew all the great stories; Moses, Noah, etc. but these always seemed to act on their own. I think they deserved this attention. There is no way I would have understood their complexity on my own. I was always faced with a riddle after reading them, but this shines the light!

    • Zoe

      I relate with every component of your message. The ridicule of friends who may or may not choose to keep friendship when we praise God publicly. The desire to share the faith. The struggle to understand and apply The Lord’s elusive words. Thank you for your message. Keep up the good work sister.

  • Thankful for this study and all of you in this precious community!

  • I once knew a pastor who was was in a meeting with a community member who verbally reviled him, and several of his congregants, calling them arrogant and hypocritical, etc. The pastor was almost happy after the conversation occurred because he felt he had faced persecution, a sure sign he was suffering for the sake of Christ. But as I reflected on the incident and got to know the man who did the name calling, all I could see was a man who had been deeply hurt. I don’t think his intention was to ‘persecute’ anyone, I think his anger about hipocrisy among church people was valid. It was a real lesson to me in making assumptions about ‘persecution.’ Sometimes the eye rolls and negativity and even anger toward church people are less about persecuting Christ and more about a lack of humility within the church. I think sometimes when I feel persecuted, I need to make sure that there isn’t some pride in my own life that is making the truth of the gospel less palatable to those around me…if that makes any sense???

    • Denise

      Yes that makes sense. We are called to not let ourselves be easily insulted – a hard thing to do. I agree with you that checking out our own selves for pride – another hard thing to do – is a necessary step. Pride seems to be a very difficult sin to overcome as so many aspects of it can be glossed over as “self-confidence” and other traits that the world praises in people.

    • raschknits

      It makes complete sense, Colleen. And when you see (or experience for yourself) hypocrisy or unkindness or pride within the church, it can make it even more difficult for us and our willingness to take a stand for our faith.

      In today’s reading, I had to re-read Philippians 1:27 several times:”Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” [ESV] I remember a former pastor saying that the moon does not have light of its own; rather, moonlight is a reflection of the sun. In the same way, we should strive to live as a reflection of Christ, so that those who might not be converted by the Word would see in God’s people a difference… and be drawn to the Word.

  • Thankful for you all. SRT has really helped me be in God’s Word everyday. If you could all please pray for me also. I was out sick two weeks with a small pneumonia and I have tons to catch up on….also I need to work on two college essays (it’s my senior year of high school)…just need to keep telling myself that God is faithful and that I need to lean on HIM all the more in this time. It’s gonna be a crazy time, but I have to remember that in the craziness God uses it for good. Everything will be okay. Thanks so much friends!

    • churchmouse

      Praying for you, Sarah, that you would continue to recover from the pneumonia and that strength and energy would return. Also that you would be able to express yourself well in those essays and that you would find favor with just the right college.

    • raschknits

      Praying for you — that your recovery continues, that your thoughts would be clear and easily conveyed to the page, and that you rejoice in your sickness so as to appreciate wellness all the more. xor

  • I am so thankful for all of the SRT community. May God bless you all.

  • Jess Gardiner

    “For the Word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 1 Cor 1:18-19

    God’s upside down kingdom seems utterly foolish to those around us. Reading this devotion I realised that I’m quick to speak up and defend when the Gospel or my faith is ridiculed and insulted. But I’m not really defending the gospel, I’m defending myself…. ouch! Praying I continue to spread his Word oblivious to people’s reactions trusting that God can make His Word come alive in people’s hearts and minds.

  • Congratulations on the presentation of your thesis and graduation!

  • Tochi Heredia

    After a year of struggling with migraines, depression, anxiety and disappointments, I gave my thesis dissertation yesterday and I graduated college.
    Even to the last minute I faced obstacles, both in my mind and from outsiders. The worst one was on Tuesday, when I had to take full responsibility for someone else’smistake. They treated me as a liar and accusing me of taking advantage of them. That triggered doubt within me: what if they’re right? What if I did make a mistake? What if I fail?

    Even though I did very well on my dissertation, this conflict blinded me to God’s faithfulness and blessings throughout. But reading this today gave me hope and so much joy, and brought me to my knees in humility. Knowing that I have to raise the flag of the truth, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t face persecution and opposition.

    A high grade or the praise of my peers isn’t the ultimate reward and it isn’t what I should strive for. Following God’s will down the path that leads to eternal life, that’s my goal.

  • Just as I am

    I am blessed to be in a family where we accept one another wherever we are on our walk .. and due to that attitude I’ve been able to watch my 81 year old father grow closer to God on his walk .. Praise God! .. thanks to shereadstruth and hereadstruth my marriage is stronger .. may you all have a blessed holiday with family & friends .. ♡♡♡

  • As I sit this morning and catch up on my reading, I want to thank each sister that comments daily. Although I am not frequent to comment, reading about each other’s struggles and rewards in the word make me a much stronger believer. I have been going through some trials and Sharon’s words today about Christ not focusing on His critics motives has hit home with me. There will always be critics, but we have to look at them as opportunities to increase his Kingdom. Love you SRT sisters.

  • What a great reminder that when we speak with truth, no matter what people say, God has our back!

  • Today’s devotion is so timely for me. It encourages me and is confirmation of how I feel I am being lead by the Lord right now. Thank you SRT for speaking truth unto my life each day. I am also thankful for all of you who share your heart and reach out here. You help me to look deeper into my own heart. You all bless my soul!! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

    • Kaylin

      I feel the same way Elaine! The SRT community has been used by God in my life and I am so thankful for all of these women!

  • churchmouse

    Sometimes persecution (a strong word but you know what I mean) comes with just a rolling of the eyes. You speak up for the Lord and the person across from you, too polite to voice their objection, just rolls their eyes. Then that feeling comes over you – that somehow you must elaborate on the Truth, explain it more clearly, defend it more forcefully to convince them you are right and they are not. Ugh. We may face that at Thanksgiving dinner today. Thank you Sharon for your words. “God works wonders among the lowly.” May we continue to speak boldly and lovingly of Him regardless of the reaction we receive. May I not succumb to analyzing the critic’s motives nor become unduly defensive. May I speak the Truth in love and follow my words with loving actions. May I bring that Resurrection reality into the situation and then just let it do its work. (Ladies, if I could gather around the Thanksgiving table with just those who have profoundly impacted my life, you would be there! Yep there would be fewer blood relatives but a whole lot more spiritual relatives! Thankful for the leadership team behind SRT and all of you who take the time to post here. You’ve blessed me. I pray blessings back on you!!)

    • Becky

      I’m reading this post today in anticipation for Thanksgiving dinner…will we all just be polite today? Or will we try to talk about things that matter, and end up hurting each other because we disagree? I want to be able to speak truthfully with nothing but love today. No defensiveness or burden to convince. It gives me some comfort to think about others going into Thanksgiving with similar intentions. Thanks for posting! Let the resurrection reality do its work…I feel like I am let off the hook.

    • Kellie

      So good, Churchmouse! A few weeks ago either in our daily reading or in the comments, someone made the profound quote that we’re so often ready to defend the name of Christ or feel the need to further explain or explain better in these eye rolling situations, but it’s actually a great opportunity for us to turn our eyes back to Jesus and ask him what HE will do to make HIS name great!! So thankful it isn’t up to us, but it’s all about Christ working in and through us. I hope my rambling thoughts make some sense this morning :) a very happy Thanksgiving to all!

  • Giving more conviction to share the gospel Comforting & prepares me for what lies ahead. I love how she says we are tasting the kingdom, the blessing is already here…he heals, he humbles etc so good!!!

  • Man! This series was timely. I feel like I’ve been through the shredder this past couple weeks, mentally and spiritually and in my relationships… and every day the scripture here is like a soothing balm, like all these knots in my heart are slowly being loosened. Today’s was especially comforting, and I feel so much stronger! I am so thankful for you all here at SRT for bringing me the Word so simply and obviously putting your prayers ahead of it. Have a lovely Thanksgiving, all.

  • Christina

    I may have to print this out and post it, along with the Scripture passages somewhere in plain sight for days and months to come, not because I know of any persecution specifically headed my way, but because we know through God’s Word that we *will* face persecution; this social and political climate in which we live is ripe for attack when we stand for truth; because I don’t know how it will look, I tend to fear the inevitable; and my response when criticized is far from godly. Thank you, Sharon, for sharing this! I appreciate you, SRT, and God’s Word so very much! Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Leenda324

      Spot on Christina. I am feeling as if we may be heading into a time of genuine persecution if we resist some of the things being set forth as high agenda policy items in the coming year. Not only am I wondering what Bonhoeffer would do if he were alive today, but what would Jesus do? I pray the Lord of the Beatitudes will give us the courage and likeliness of heart to react and respond properly and righteously.

  • Tricia Cavanaugh

    I’m thankful for all of you at SRT on this Thanksgiving day! Be blessed.
    Tricia

    • I, too, am thankful for everyone at She Reads Truth and my brother and sisters in Christ. It is a blessing to have you all to worship with and read the Word daily.

  • Thanks Sharon for this, I’m astonished any of the SRT would be accused of writing anything other than honesty, truth and encouragement! I have found these studies to be the best of all I have come across (in my 21 year old faith!) and that’s because Gods word is explained simply, honestly and at times with raw honesty that is so refreshing- you are human too, hurrah! If you write about your struggles, pain, joy, walk and STILL show yourselves to be the ‘light and salt’ then that means I can too! So thank you, Sharon and all the woman at SRT and the precious ladies reading and commenting, you have helped me through a very difficult week, God bless you for lifting me up in prayer and encouragement xx

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