Matthew 5:10 says “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (NASB)
We often translate this verse to mean that those are martyred, beaten, physically harmed or wronged because they are Christians are going to receive the greatest blessing at the resurrection. Given the historical context of when these words were spoken, I believe that this is what Jesus is talking about specifically here.
But in our politically correct culture where our religious beliefs are often treated as a personal decision to be left alone, are we exempt from this blessing? Are we suffering for the name of Christ?
Sometimes it can happen in obvious ways: bullying at school because of religious beliefs, being unable to participate in a sport that conflicts with Sunday worship, being mocked for having a biblical view of children or the biblical roles of husbands and wives. But there is another, more subtle yet equally powerful way that we can suffer for our faith in our culture.
Any time you obey an unkind authority that is placed over you by God, you are suffering in order to obey Christ.
Any time you sacrifice something you love to do for the sake of giving to someone else, you are suffering in order to obey Christ.
Any time you show kindness to someone who has wronged you, you are suffering in order to obey Christ.
God has not called many of us in North America to the martyrdom of being killed for our faith. We will most likely be given a relatively peaceful life. You might get some funny comments from people in Costco about your choice to homeschool or your choice to receive many children as the blessing that they are. We are not sneaking to church on Sundays for fear of being shot. But God has called you to lay down your life for the sake of Christ.
Many will be unkind to you, and you are called to be Christ to them. Many will ask more of you than you want to give, and you are called to be Christ to them.
Maybe your parents criticize your decisions; can you lay down your desire to retaliate and show respect to them instead? Maybe your husband is lazy; can you lay down your desire to disrespect him and find a way to honor him instead? Maybe your boss is selfish and demanding; can you lay down your desire to complain and instead do the work with joy? These are all ways we can live sacrificial lives in the name of Christ.
Christ doesn’t call us to lay down our lives because being a Christian means we have no backbone. Christ calls us to follow His example because laying down your life is the only way to penetrate the darkness of sin around us.
When we are being sinned against, dying to ourselves is the way we receive new life but it also gives the Gospel to the people who have hurt us. Returning good for evil is the recipe for turning the evil into good.
The impact of our faithfulness in the presence of unkindness brings about a great blessing for us and for the offender. Maybe we will see that blessing in our life here, or maybe we will wait for the resurrection to be given that crown.
But this is the message of the Gospel that we preach with sacrificial lives: he who loses his life will find it in Christ, he who gives himself up in the name of Christ will have the greatest blessing.