Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)
Earlier Jesus blessed those who longed for righteousness, who hungered and thirsted for it with fervency. But what happens when we finally begin demonstrating righteousness in our lives? What happens when we show mercy to someone who doesn’t “deserve” it (as though any of us do!)? What happens when we cry for justice for people who are mistreated because of the color of their skin or the accident of being born without wealth? What happens when we expect public officials to actually be accountable for the way they hold office? What happens when we actually try to bridge gaps and build peace with those who may not believe the same things we do?
Unfortunately, one reality is that we just might face persecution. The devil stirs the heart of looters and rioters to spoil your peaceful protest so it gets smeared. Those in positions of power resist calls for transparency and accountability with actions sly or belligerent, legal or illicit. People you love cast smokescreens, avoid the question, even ghost you when you bring up an uncomfortable truth – however tactfully or winsomely.
We shouldn’t be surprised when sinful human beings resist your stand for righteousness when your call implies they must change, especially if they have to give up some position of wealth, power, or prestige to do what’s morally and ethically right. But neither should we be disheartened. Remember, Jesus considers it a blessing to be persecuted. You are bring light to a place where there was once darkness. You are bringing hope where there was once hopelessness. You are bringing a promise where there was once only a curse. And with each person, oppressor or oppressed, who lets your light light their flame, lets your hope encourage them, lets the promise you’re speaking in Jesus’ name banish the curse of sin and death in their lives – that light, hope, and promise permeates this fallen world with the love of Christ. And ultimately, Jesus will usher in that day when complete righteousness will displace the unrighteousness of our current age that is fading away. Indeed, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:4).
Righteous Father, help me as I seek to exhibit and spread your righteousness in acts of love, mercy, and justice in the world around me, in your Son’s strong name. Amen.