Blessed are the Persecuted (Matthew 10-12), those who stand up to criticism, to denial, to violence, to imprisonment, to total rejection, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. This Beatitude is a high bar for us humans, but fortunately, we have many saints who were martyrs in the history of our church who will show us the way. Paul, for one, wrote often about all that he endured, but then he concludes:
You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them (2 Timothy 3:10-11).
And that is the promise of Jesus: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He will accompany us, He will rescue us, He will save us, and, even if we die like Paul did at the hand of our oppressors, He will be with us.” All He asks of us is that we be faithful to Him, to go where He asks us to go, to live as He asks us to live, to follow His every direction in all areas of our lives.
We cannot give ourselves over to Him so completely until we have asked for Him to heal us of all that stands between us and Him—our egocentricity, our attachment to the world, our own preferences about how our lives should go, our indifference to other people’s needs, and allowed Him to heal and sustain us, to lead and direct us, to follow Him wherever He would take us. We have to follow the path, the ladder, if you will, of the Beatitudes from being poor in spirit, mourning all our losses and pain, becoming meek/humble, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, becoming merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers, before we face the truth that we might be persecuted for all that we are, for the faith that we have in God and Christ Jesus. Along the path of following Jesus, He will reveal our purpose to us, and then show us how to fulfill our purpose, how to live our lives in Christ, how to be in the world, but not of the world (Romans 12:2).
“Rejoice and be glad” reads the 2nd Beatitude on the persecuted, “great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:12). How sure must we be of God and His promises? How strong must our faith be that we will not be alone in our sufferings? How devoted must we be to God to live as those who were challenged in so many ways for their faith? It takes all of who we are—heart, soul, mind and strength—to so follow the Lord that we no longer care what happens to us. And that is the high bar that Jesus set for us.
Fortunately, the Beatitudes show us the way to get to this total devotion to God. It takes a lot of prayer and dedication to walk this path with Jesus. Along the way it takes a lot of admitting the truth about who we are and prayer where we leave our, oh, so human faults on His altar to heal and to transform. It takes a lot of dedication to our purpose that He reveals to each of us. And finally, if it takes our life to be a devoted follower of Jesus, then it must be our time to go.
For that is the attitude of the devoted follower of Jesus—accepting what comes to him or her, knowing that Christ will be in the midst of whatever it is with us. Nothing can upset our devotion to Christ. Nothing at all! Thanks be to God who rescues us from all suffering and pain. Amen!
Questions to ponder over the week: Am I willing, really willing to go wherever God leads me? Do I really trust Him fully in all that He suggests to me? How well do I serve Him?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who act on His suggestions, who faithfully devote ourselves to Him. May we be attentive in all areas of our lives to the One who calls and sustains us.
See more blog posts and offerings at patsaidadams.com.
Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com, for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life. New posts every month. 4.12.21s is entitled “The Lens Through Which We See Life.” Sign up to receive these as monthly emails at the website.