The beatitudes spoken in Matthew 5:1-10 provide a series of blessings that are general and widely applicable. But in 5:11, Jesus gets more personal. He speaks directly to his disciples in each generation. "Blessed are YOU when people revile you and persecute you and utter against you falsely on my account." Commenting on this verse, Frederick Beuchner says: "Jesus saved for last the ones who side with heaven even when any fool can see it's the losing side and all you get for your pains is pain."
Those who side with the cross know that God's kingdom is not about wealth and power and super success. They know that the way of the cross is self-sacrifice and compassion and tireless service. The cross is foolishness to many, but to those who believe it is the power of God (1 Cor 1:18). That's why Jesus can say that persecution and pain can be a reason for rejoicing. New life is born of death.
But there is also a danger in this. We need to be careful not to victimize people by telling them that the abuse and persecution they may be suffering is a holy opportunity to receive God's blessing. Rather, when we see innocent victims being persecuted and abused and slandered, we are called to side with those who are suffering. It is the way of Jesus and the way of blessing.
Grant us the courage, Jesus, to speak up for those who are persecuted, abused, and slandered. And when we experience personal pain and loss, send us advocates to bless us even as we suffer and mourn. For all the blessings we receive from your gracious hand, we give thanks. Amen.
Matthew 5:1-12 (NRSV)
1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.
2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.