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Why persecution follows peacemaking
Why is a believer persecuted? It is for righteousness sake.
D. Martyn Lloyd Jones wrote “it is interesting…that this particular Beatitude follows immediately the reference to the peacemakers…He is persecuted because he is a certain type of person.”
Not exactly a compelling reason to strive for righteousness or peacemaking is it? But it is true throughout Scripture. Why did Cain kill Abel? Why did Saul pursue David? What put Daniel in the lions’ den or the three Hebrew boys in a fiery furnace? What did Job do to deserve what happened to him?
Many times in life and in the Bible, we see that doing the right thing often leads to unpopularity in the world. There is a reason for that. This is not our home, as we live in a fallen world and God has prepared us for the kingdom of heaven.
Same reward, different degree
Secondly, look at the reward. We are back where we started. After climbing the steps of the Beatitudes, have we come to the bottom rung? Hardly! Look at Matt. 20:1-16. Laborers hired at the end of the day got exactly what those who worked for at the beginning of the day. They complained, but the owner said, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?”
When we see all that we have suffered for righteousness’ sake compared to what we might have received without the salvation through Christ, no wonder we will cast our crowns at the feet of Jesus. The reward of the kingdom of heaven is no more deserved at the top of the staircase than it was at the bottom. A true servant of Christ will say as the servant He spoke of said in Luke 17:7-10, “We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.”
So is there a point in attempting to live the Beatitudes, if we are going to get the same reward as everyone else? By all means! Persecution has the same reward of the kingdom of heaven as being poor in spirit, but so much more.
Matthew 13:43 explains the story of the wheat and tares, “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” God will remember our labor and our persecution and He will reward us. Matthew 5:12 explains further, “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
Verses about God rewarding us.
God will reward you openly for righteous works done secretly.
4 Give your gifts in secret, and your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you. 6 When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly. Then your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you. 18 No one will suspect you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in secret. And your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you. 24 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and the Master you are serving is Christ. 18 The nations were angry with you, but now the time of your wrath has come. It is time to judge the dead and reward your servants. You will reward your prophets and your holy people, all who fear your name, from the least to the greatest.
(Matt. 6:4, 6, 18, Col. 3:24, Rev. 11:18, 22:12).
Rewards for small acts will never be lost. Salvation is free, but rewards are according to our works, especially loving our enemies.
42 And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded. 8 they will be rewarded individually, according to their own hard work. 35 Love your enemies! Do good to them! Lend to them! And don't be concerned that they might not repay. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to the unthankful and to those who are wicked.
(Matthew 10:42, 1 Corinthians 3:8, Luke 6:35)
Some outwardly righteous works won’t receive any heavenly rewards.
1 "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 8 Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.
Why are you being persecuted?
Finally, let us note again what righteousness is and why that is the source of our persecution. It is not the act of being noble or good or even being what the world would call “right.” The Biblical definition of righteousness is “right standing with God,” and not with the world.
This is not Murphy’s Law of “No good deed will go unpunished.” This is Kingdom’s Law that says that “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking (that is, living selfishly), but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” In Matthew 5:10, He says “for righteousness’ sake,” and then in the very next verse, He says, “for My sake,” making persecution for righteousness and for Christ as being equal.