"blessed are the those who are persecuted…"

blessed are those who are persecuted

“blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – matthew 5:10

well, it takes me a while sometimes to finish what i started, but i always finish!  this is the last in the series on the beatitudes.  you can check out the other links below.  i often say i love the beatitudes. and i hate the beatitudes.  because they are painfully challenging.  in a world that cries for upward mobility & comfortable & predictable, the beatitudes are a call down, into the places that are uncomfortable, messy, and unpredictable in the human experience.  they point to humility when our human tendency is toward pride & control.

but they are also a pathway to peace.  a better way.  a more deep & satisfying way.

when i was in my zealous conservative christian days i remember talking a lot about being “persecuted” for my beliefs by my family & others who didn’t agree with me. i am not saying that persecution isn’t real–there are scores of people around the world being truly persecuted–even losing their lives–for standing in their christian faith and i don’t want to diminish that in the slightest.  but when i look back at my “persecution”, um, i wouldn’t call it that. i’d call it people-being-annoyed-with-me-for-being-annoying.

the actual word for persecution in the bible means “to be mistreated on account of something, to pursue in hostile manner, harass, or trouble.” to me, it means that we will be mocked, criticized, cast-out, and sometimes even hunted-down by people who strongly don’t agree with us.  like most of you, i definitely don’t want to be persecuted.  it stinks to be mistreated & cast out & mocked & criticized.

but something has shifted inside of me in the past several years where i have come to realize that standing on behalf of the poor, oppressed, and marginalized is far more important than making sure everyone likes me.  i think that’s what Jesus is saying in this beatitude:  when we do these things–when we give up power, when we lose our lives, when we care about mercy, justice, love more than anything else–we are going to somehow be cast out. like Jesus experienced when he started mixing it up, people will not know what to do with us.  they won’t like us rocking the status quo and calling out injustice.  they won’t like us taking a stand.  they won’t like us not playing by their rules anymore.

more people liked me when i played nicer. they really did. i was easier to be around because i towed the line well.  but i keep learning along the way that nothing changes in this world by towing the line, following the herd and just sticking with the ninety-nine.  to me, the ninety-nine is the “system” that leans toward the powerful and pretty and keeps those with resource & power safe and comfortable.  Jesus modeled leaving the ninety-nine to go find the one (this is one of my favorite blog posts & is in down we go).  and when we follow Jesus’ lead–toward the fringes–we are heading toward the same path he did–persecution.  we will most likely never hang on a cross, but we will pay a price.  the ninety-nine don’t like people messing with the system because it’s working for them.  but there are an awful lot of one’s out there who need us to advocate, to stop, to listen, to vote on their behalf, to use our power on their behalf, to tangibly love.

and to pay the price for it.

we may lose our reputations, our jobs, churches, money, comfort, relationships-with-people-who-don’t-understand-us-anymore, and a host of other things.  but in the end, i do believe Jesus is reminding us here in this passage that it’s worth it.  because to gain our lives we have to lose them.  because there’s no greater love than laying down our lives for our friends.   because this life is not about ease & comfort & feeling good & knowing correct doctrine & sticking with the ninety-nine.   rather, it’s about being Jesus in the flesh and offering hope and redemption in a dark, broken, and tipped-toward-the-powerful world.

God, help us be people who are willing to be persecuted for living out your wild, counter-to-the-world ways.   you tell us we’ll be blessed when we do.   may we see that blessing doesn’t come in the form of more money, status, or power, but rather in the deep, rich knowing that your love, mercy & justice is being reflected through us in small and big ways.

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other posts in this series:

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

14 Comments

  • The timing of this was actually impeccable for me! I’m really struggling with this…there are so many people who use it to justify their misuse of the bible. How do you discern if people are persecuting you because you are speaking truth, or if it is because you are way off base!

    I’ve always seen it as “non-christians” persecuting christians but lately it seems as if their is way more persecution of truth, and people, going on within the realm of the church. It makes me really sad, I have trouble stepping back from it and knowing the best way to address it. I guess it’s linked with you quote from before…practise the better. Loving the book of the practise of love by the way. Powerful words.

    Reply
    • thanks, jenn. in my particular journey i have experienced far more “persecution” from within christianity than from outside of it. it’s kind of weird. i remember when we started the refuge and were dealing with the women in leadership thing for a bit, any adversity that we had came from christians while a ton of support & encouragement came from people who didn’t identify themselves as such. thanks again for reading & being part here.

      Reply
  • So happy to have paused here for a moment …

    Funny moment: “But when i look back at my “persecution”, um, i wouldn’t call it that. i’d call it people-being-annoyed-with-me-for-being-annoying.” Hehe.

    I love your perspective on the 99 being the “’system’ that leans toward the powerful and pretty and keeps those with resource & power safe and comfortable.” Yes. Ouch. But, yes.

    I so appreciate your voice.

    Reply
    • thanks, idelette. glad that made you chuckle 🙂 i agree, it a big ouch, that 99 vs. the one idea, a painful reality. really glad you are here and so thankful for your voice, too. hope we get to hang out in real life one of these days..

      Reply
  • Great post. Definitely made me thing of that verse a little differently. I too was very zealous about Christianity in my early adulthood years. I just annoyed people, too! Now I annoy people because I choose to show my zeal for Christ by living a different lifestyle. I want to live out my second half of adulthood in giving, not getting; helping, not hindering; showering love and mercy rather than showering people with Bible verses and judgement. Amen, sister!

    Reply
    • amen, my friend from afar! that’s stuff work being “persecuted” for. lots of love to you from colorado.

      Reply
  • “tangibly love”…love that thought/idea. great post, PK. Made me think of some other words on dying to reputation or going out of our comfort zone to love “the one”…

    “In the midst of turbulence, there is going to be a “faith force driven by love” that will consume the lovers of Jesus at this hour. Revivals of the past have always been first marked by men and women who considered their reputations to be crucified with the Lord and rose up with undying love for their generation.”-Munday Martin

    I like the idea of going out of your way to help the one, but I think you’re right, as humans we use “the season” or “it’s someone else’s responsibility” as our counter or excuse to not do just that…we go towards that comfort zone and then blame God or “use” a different scripture as our excuse.

    Reply
    • ya know, just realized that this post was such good timing in my life right now. “blessed are those that are persecuted”…thanks, PK. You ROCK!

      Reply
  • Yes, persecution can come from religious people as well as from the state and non religious people. The religious people don’t want anyone messing with their authority, power, control and especially their money.

    The best way to deal with this is to remove ourselves from their control. Don’t play their games. Ignore their criticism. Hang out with other people. Start your own group. Don’t do it for this reason, but when you’re doing well without their system and their control it just simply annoys the h*** out of them when they figure it out.

    Reply
    • you always make me smile. i think you said it best: “the best way to deal with this is to remove ourselves from their control..” all kinds of wild and beautiful things happen when we disconnect from that and live out our faith unhindered. thanks for sharing.

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  • And what a beautiful finish it is… Thanks Kathy… 🙂

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  • Hmm…. after a lifetime of never “fitting in”, I realize that part of it is because of always knowing Jesus. People in the church world often talk about how you never forget the day you got saved. And I am sure that is true for those who did not always know Him. But I have never been able to give an “acceptable” answer to that when questioned, because I don’t remember when I DIDN’T know Him. And I know that is the only reason I have survived the things I have gone through – the only reason I survived childhood. So… to the post…. yeah, when you do not fit the mold that people create for what things “should” look like, you don’t fit, then you are not accepted. I spent some time during the last decade trying to fit myself into that mold – one last time. Didn’t work and I have walked away from trying to fit. And I hope that I stay away from that. And when you don’t fit, they don’t let you play. But I would rather sit with Jesus alone than dance to the tune they are playing. 🙂

    Reply

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