The type of persecution Jesus is talking about isn’t persecution because of being vulnerable. It is not persecution because of the color of your skin. It is not persecution because of any kind of prejudice. He’s speaking about those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. So, what is righteousness? It is to be right with God. How does that come about? God gives us the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Not by anything we have done, but by what Jesus has done on our behalf. Because of the righteousness of God in Christ, we receive that right relationship with God through faith. It is a gift of God.
When it comes to being persecuted for righteousness sake, there are really two main ways that this can occur in our lives:
- When we refuse to renounce our faith or when we refuse to remain silent about our faith when God gives us an opportunity to share it.
- When we refuse to engage in moral compromise that calls on us to compromise our biblical values in a way that would mean denying our faith in Jesus Christ.
What so many Christians don’t realize is that there is far more persecution in the world today towards followers of Christ than in the history of mankind. Credible research estimates that Christians are being violently killed now more than any time in history because of some relation to their faith.”* It is so far beyond the first century persecution of the church, it boggles the mind. But it is a reminder that this persecution will only increase the closer and closer we get to the second coming of Jesus Christ. It’s just the nature of where the world is going. So the question for the follower of Jesus is—are you willing to believe this paradoxical statement that Jesus makes about happiness? “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” The kingdom of Heaven is not a bad offer. It is happiness – forever!
* Vatican spokesman, Monsieur Silvano Maria Tomasi, as said in a radio address to the United Nations Human Rights Council.