As citizens living in a counter-Christian culture, do people ever characterize you as a bigot (one who is intolerantly devoted to his own church belief, or opinion), divisive, narrow minded, irritating, or a lost cause? If so, why?
If the answer is because we have an obnoxious, hateful, insensitive feeling toward others, it would be well for us to ask the Lord to give us an attitude adjustment. But if it is because of strong convictions based on solid biblical truths spoken in love, then rejoice, because Jesus says we can expect such treatment.
Remember what Jesus said, “Remember, no servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the name of the One who sent me” (John 15:20-21).
Our text today, the last Beatitude, tells us, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).
Lets discuss this word of our Lord in greater depth.
A counter-Christian culture is a term I borrowed from Lloyd Ogilvie. It describes a culture that has its problems with the Christian culture. It is a culture that appears religious or spiritual in the broadest sense of the word. You hear people from this culture saying, “I consider myself to be a religious person, and I resent Christians telling me I am a pagan.”
In this counter-Christian culture, Jesus is not confessed from the heart as Savior and Lord. At best He is one of several religious leaders. Neither do these people take the Ten Commandments seriously. Absolutes are something of the past. According to this philosophy, there are no objective truths; truth is subjective. What might be truth for you would not be for me. For example, cohabitation might be acceptable behavior for John, but not for Mary. The truth that salvation is received only through faith in Jesus Christ is held dear by Betty, but Marjorie would call this bigotry convinced that there are several ways to heaven.
Those affected by a counter-Christian culture throw out a warning: Christianity has to change some of its antiquated ideas or it will die. They contend that many passages in the Bible must be reinterpreted, because our culture has changed and will not accept previous interpretations.
While evangelical Christians are criticized by unbelievers, Jesus Christ praises them. He says we are blessed. Though the criticism from relatives and friends might be hard to take, we are in good company, because this is the treatment that the prophets of old received. Since human nature has not changed and resists the things of God, what else can we expect but criticism.
“Blessed are you, for great will be your reward in heaven,” are the words of Jesus to his followers. In other parts of the Bible, Jesus tells us we will also be a blessing to many who live here now on this earth. While some criticize you as a Christian, others thank God for you. They long to hear that Gospel telling them that through faith in Jesus their sins can be forgiven and they can be restored into fellowship with God. They need that hope, and they also need to hear there are rights and wrongs. They need this guidance and direction.
While these words of encouragement from our Lord help us, there is yet one other matter that we must note. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” If we present ourselves as obnoxious, hateful, insensitive toward the feelings of others, self-righteous, having all the answers and filled with anger, our witness will be offensive and our persecution comes from our stupidity. We must admit that at times, when we are called bigots, we return the compliment by calling the unbeliever pagan. When they call us fools, not to be outdone, we call them infidels. Such conversation is fruitless; nothing is accomplished. Only the wounds grow deeper and the relationship is destroyed further.
But if we will present ourselves as people whose lives are captured by Jesus Christ and a smile flows from our souls, the witness for Jesus will be heard. If there is a smile on our faces that comes from a joy in our hearts, our chances of being heard are greater.
Here is our chance to talk to them about the meaning of the cross. Jesus loves them, and he has died for them. If they will but confess their sins and receive Him as their Savior and Lord, they too will experience God’s love. He loves me, but He loves you just as much. This is a powerful witness that might not be accepted immediately, but will not return void.
What a positive way for Jesus to end the Beatitudes.
We began this study of the Beatitudes by saying it is our prayer this portion of God’s Word will strengthen our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. This is our closing prayer: that these words from Jesus may have become more precious, and you will return to them often for comfort and strength.