“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.”
What do you mean when you say you feel blessed?
I don’t know about you, but I tend to mean good health, fiscal solvency and a sanctified version of luck, and I suspect I’m not alone. In many ways, being blessed has become synonymous with having an abundance of earthly delights. But that doesn’t seem to line up with what Jesus is saying in the passage above, does it? Where is the Beatitude that says, “Blessed are the solid Christians, for they shall enjoy bountiful harvests, secure homes and happy families all the days of their long lives?”
On Easter Sunday, as Christians in Sri Lanka were faithfully and peaceably attending church, a series of bombs went off, ending lives and shattering families. What should have been happy celebrations, focused on the joy of the resurrection became scenes of chaos, death and pain.
Blessed are the persecuted?
In this upside-down kingdom, where the least are the greatest, where we are to love our enemies and lead by serving, Jesus has a clear message: to be blessed has nothing to do with safety, solvency or strength. If anything, it means wading into a sea of troubles. For each of us, the calling is different. It may mean fostering troubled kids, even when we know they may break our hearts. It could mean serving the homeless or showing love to the drug addict, even though he or she may never change. It may mean sharing the Gospel, even when we may be dismissed, ridiculed or even assaulted. It always means living out what God has called us to do not because we will receive anything for it in this life, but because he asked us to do it. We are blessed, that is, the presence of God is with us—we are made holy—when we are living out what he has called us to be and do in this world.
Great is our reward in heaven. But not here.
Over and over again, Jesus says a version of the same thing:
“A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:32-33)
We will have troubles. We will get sick. We will struggle financially. Christians will continue to be killed for what they believe. As a whole body of believers, we are surrounded by calamity, and have to endure persecution and slander.
In this world we will have troubles. But take heart, family. Jesus has overcome the world.