“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).
“When I had the flu, I gave my sister my Popsicle,” says Halle, age 9. “I got a spanking.” Ouch! Halle, I’m sorry your sharing got you into trouble. Let’s hear from Adrianna, 8: “It means when people ignore somebody when they’re doing the right thing and don’t play with them, God blesses those people because they’re doing the right thing.”
“Once I was opening the door for people, and some teenagers were saying that I didn’t need to do that,” recalls Carson, 9. Three cheers for you, Carson. If you want to join the bandwagon, conform to peer pressure and make decisions based on popularity polls. But if you want to do what’s right, expect resistance because you’ll have to go against the crowd.
Salmon is my favorite food for three reasons: One, it tastes great; two, it’s full of brain food called marine lipids; and three, I like the idea of eating a fish that swims against the current.
Being mocked, ridiculed or socially ostracized for doing what’s right is swimming upstream. This isn’t nonconformity just to be different. It’s desiring, thinking and acting differently because you’re living in a relationship with a righteous God.
Tertullian, a Christian leader who lived about 150 years after Jesus, wrote: “We (Christians) have a reputation of living aloof from crowds.”
Social life is not all Christians lost in the early days of the church, says Langdon, 11: “A man named Paul used to capture people who talked about the great Jesus Christ. One man named Stephen got stoned and died. One day, Paul changed. He didn’t capture people anymore. He believed in the great Jesus Christ. He went to different countries and cities to tell people about Jesus Christ. Many times, he and his friends got put into jail, but they escaped a lot.”
God likes paradoxes. He took the greatest persecutor of the early church and transformed him into its most acclaimed evangelist, the Apostle Paul.
“People are blessed for telling about God even when you might get hurt or killed,” says Kate, 10. “For this, you will be honored.” Indeed you will, Kate. In fact, the Apostle Luke says you should “leap for joy” when people hate and exclude you because of your relationship with the Lord Jesus. Leap for joy? Yes, because “your reward is great in heaven” (Luke 6:23).
Only those who are believers can rejoice in the midst of persecution. They can do this because believers filled with God’s life can love and forgive those who hate them. Since Jesus rose from the dead and went back to heaven, the Holy Spirit has been given to live inside every believer. The power of God’s love transforms believers’ hearts.
Compassion replaces brutality. Greed gives way to generosity. Understanding prevails over prejudice. Hope drives out despair.
Hunter, 10, tells the story of Jim Elliot, a missionary martyr who died in the jungles of Ecuador. “When his wife heard about it, she cried for a long time. A few years later, she made a Bible in the language that the natives spoke in that country.”
God’s love came to this remote tribe through Elisabeth Elliot, the wife of the man whom they murdered. Only God’s power working in a person could make that person love those who murdered her husband.
Point to ponder: God rewards those who suffer for doing the right thing.
Scripture to remember: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).
Question to consider: When you suffer for doing what’s right, can you rejoice that God knows and will bless you?