Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. —Matthew 5:11–12 (ESV)
The New Testament has a lot to say about persecution. Sometimes we read stories of persecution—of Jesus, his disciples, the Apostle Paul, and new believers. Sometimes New Testament authors encourage their readers to persevere in suffering.
In today’s text, Jesus himself teaches a crowd about persecution in a passage sometimes called the Beatitudes which make up part of Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. The language he uses to describe the suffering is ‘revile’, ‘persecute’, and ‘falsely utter all kinds of evil’. Not the sorts of things you want to be on the receiving end of! So it is striking that Jesus declares such a person as ‘blessed’. This is followed by a command: “Rejoice and be glad!” But why? How could we rejoice in persecution? Jesus offers two reasons: (1) Your reward is great in heaven. In other words, this persecution now doesn’t compare to what’s in store for you eternally. (2) Even the prophets who declare God’s word to His people were persecuted—you stand in a long line of God’s faithful!
It isn’t fun to be slandered, to be falsely accused, and otherwise persecuted. But persecution comes with the territory of Christian faith, and God will bless us when we faithfully endure. Remember: your reward is great in heaven. Passages like this also remind us that many Christians around the world face persecution—often much more intense than anything we experience in the United States. Lift up your brothers and sisters in prayer, and remind your children and students to do the same.