In his thoughtful book Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton made this keen observation: "The modern philosopher had told me again and again that I was in the right place, and I had still felt depressed even in acquiescence ... When I heard that I was in the wrong place ... my soul sang for joy, like a bird in spring. I knew now ... why I could feel homesick at home." Jesus' description of the Christian character underlines how alien we are becoming under His rule. We don't fit; Christian character is counter-intuitive and counter-cultural, and as such it can get us into trouble!
The last beatitude seems like anything but a blessing, but it is critical enough that Jesus provides additional comment on it. Our focus will be on verses 10-12, but that will require a brief review of verses 2-9. Read the entire section on the beatitudes, Matthew 5:1-12, and use the questions below to help you meditate on these challenging words from Jesus.
1. In the beatitudes, Jesus has painted a comprehensive portrait of the character of a saint, the one who has come under the gracious rule of God. Take a moment and review verses 2-9 and write out a description of the person Jesus describes here. In other words, how would you describe the person who is being changed by the grace of God?
2. How is the portrait Jesus paints of us so different from the values and standards common in the world around us? How would you describe the person who has not been under the gracious rule of God in contrast to the beatitudes?
3. Apparently, followers of Jesus are not always warmly welcomed in the world and their efforts at peacemaking are not always successful. The final beatitude addresses the subject of persecution (v. 10), and it gets extended attention from Jesus (vv. 11-12). What is persecution and what does Jesus include in the category of persecution?
4. The blessing belongs to "those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake." What do you think that means? You might consider one or several or all of the texts listed below:
* Matthew 10:16ff.
* John 15:18-21; 16:1-4.
* II Timothy 3:10-12
* I Pet. 2:19-23; 3:13-17; 4:12-19
5. How might you or I be persecuted today for the name of Jesus? What has been your experience persecution?
6. How does Jesus tell us to respond to persecution, and why should we so respond? 7. What is the promise to "those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake" (v. 10)? And what do you think Jesus means when He says "your reward is great in heaven" (v. 12)?
8. Why is this final beatitude fitting as the last touch on Jesus portrait of a saint's character and quality of life?
9. How did you hear the Lord's voice in His Word today?
God be with you and see you on Sunday!