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Friday, March 10, 2017

Sermon on the Mount, Day 10 of 40: The Persecuted

Matthew 5: 10-12
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Not all of our attempts at peacemaking will be successful. In these verses Jesus changes the focus from peacemaking to persecution; from those who seek to have good relationships with others to those who suffer hostility from others.

Jesus knew that the kind of life he was asking His followers to lead was very different to the kind of life the world asks a person to lead. The Apostle Paul, having been accused of "turning the world upside down" (Acts 17:6), wrote in 2 Timothy 3:12, "Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."

The values of Christians, as described by Christ, are subversive to the culture in which it exists.  Self-control, walking humbly, showing mercy, being transparent, offering forgiveness, living simply, loving your neighbors as you love yourself, loving your enemies, are spiritual values that can only be lived out by people who are led by the Holy Spirit, not by the leaders of this world.

Christians should not seek to be reviled and persecuted.  And we are told that such "evils" will be unjustified.  But if this happens, we should not fear or curse God. We are not to retaliate in kind. We should regard ourselves as blessed because the persecution and hate of the world is a sign that we are living the kind of subversive life Jesus described in the Beatitudes and it has been noticed.

The purpose of our light is not to hide it out of fear but to shine it into the world out of love for humankind.  In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus taught "You are the light of the world.  A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven."

Show God's love to the world, even if it is rejected, and rejoice and be glad.

Monday, we will study the salt of the earth.

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