The Comforting Challenge

by | May 14, 2024 | 8 Persecuted

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10).

Jesus kicked off his teaching ministry with blessings. If he wanted to win converts, what a nice way to start. Give people a self-esteem boost. What a fresh alternative to scaring people.

But by the time Jesus arrived at this Beatitude, we already see that he had no such simple agenda. We can reduce it to neither a self-esteem boost nor a scare tactic.

If we do not identify with suffering persecution, we may assume he addressed someone else.  Maybe we hope to claim the blessings of one or two other Beatitudes, like accepting the promise of comfort as they mourn a loved one’s death or the status of God’s child as they try to make peace in the family.  Or we write Jesus off as some charismatic nutcase promoting masochism or a victim mentality.

To complicate matters more, those who deserve to identify with this Beatitude may not realize that it names and blesses them.  Meek, they see themselves as sinners who deserve suffering no less than anyone else.  Poor in spirit, they recognize that anything good about them comes as a gift.  Their hunger and thirst for righteousness presupposes that they don’t have it yet.

So who can claim this Beatitude?  The Beatitudes speak hope to pain.  Suffering attunes our ears to hear them.  This one offers a comforting challenge. Hopefully, one facing blatant, undeniable persecution for obedience to God will hear this one with great comfort.

But this Beatitude speaks also to common pain. In one way or another, all of us suffer, whether we give our lives back to God or not. Whether it is a diagnosis that guarantees pain and shorter life, injustice that keeps you in perpetual survival mode, disillusionment and ennui, or whatever burdens you, respect your suffering. If you have given your life to God, your suffering, whatever it is, will be consecrated.

It will be persecution because all suffering tempts you to refuse God’s love because you feel unworthy of it. Jesus’s blessing guarantees your worthiness. By his suffering for and with you, Jesus consecrates your suffering.

Furthermore, you are made to love and called to live into love. If your suffering stems from a lack of love, repent, turn around, love in whatever way the situation calls for. You may still suffer, but you will suffer in the pattern of Christ.

And if you suffer already because you love, rest assured, the promise of this Beatitude is for you. Paradoxically, love which binds us together can also bring great loneliness. The promise of the kingdom, of God’s reign over your life will fulfill every hope beyond your imagining.

Willingness to suffer persecution for love sets you free. You need not do it alone. You already have a cross in one form or another. When Jesus calls you to take up your cross and follow him, he means he will walk with you as long as you let him. That is the comforting challenge of faith.

Related Posts

Love Is Never Wasted

Privilege and the Compassion Deficit

Suffering Without Shame: How the Second Beatitude Changed Me

Stop Distress Over Distress: Self-Respect In a World of Suffering

Suffering Well During the COVID-19 Pandemic


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