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I believe the key word is not necessarily “persecuted” but “righteousness” because it is because of righteousness that many face persecution.
For Righteousness' Sake
Photo by Eilis Garvey / Unsplash

A Covenantal Relationship

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake."

Persecution is a topic we don’t like to talk much about. It’s a bit unnerving to think that we may one day be called upon to offer our very lives rather than deny our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I personally want to believe that God gives the one standing in the balance an extra measure of grace to hold fast to their confession, for His greater glory. That’s not to say He makes it easy, but that there is supernatural strength available to those facing untold horrors for standing firm. History, both ancient and contemporary, seems to bear this out.

As I was reading this morning, this topic seemed to be the object of a holy spotlight, inviting me to stop and consider what Jesus meant when He spoke to the multitudes: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” I believe the key word is not necessarily “persecuted” but “righteousness” because it is because of righteousness that many face persecution.

Righteousness is an attribute which stems from a covenantal relationship with the Creator. It implies conformity to a certain set of expectations which are relative to the relationship. For instance, if in a marriage relationship, the expectations would differ than a covenant between two businesspeople contracted together. Interestingly, the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible states:

Righteousness denotes the fulfilled expectations in relationships between man and wife, parents and children, fellow citizens, employer and employee, merchant and customers, ruler and citizens, and God and man.

The righteousness, however, that draws the greatest form of persecution is due to the covenantal relationship between God and man. And, this is the object of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:10. Interestingly, according to Baker, “The quality of a person’s relationship with God is directly linked to his relationship with his fellowman."

The revelation of true righteousness can be found in the life of the Messiah who came to “fulfill all righteousness” (Matt 3:15). A study of His life reveals conformity to God’s will in all areas of life, providing a model of righteousness for every believer.

There is no righteousness apart from Jesus Christ. In other words, the Father requires acceptance of His Son as His appointed means of salvation. One cannot be considered righteousness if one has not acknowledged one’s own personal and individual need of redemption, repented, and put their faith in Christ.

God considers the righteous to be relational in that the believer has become a “son of God” by adoption.

Righteousness is an expression for newness of life in the Spirit which is freely given to those who have been redeemed.

An expression of hope spanning from creation to the new creation in Christ also defines righteousness. The fulness of righteousness will be made manifest at the glorification of all believers and the glorious manifestation of God’s kingdom. All creation will be renewed in righteousness, conforming in every way to God’s plan in Jesus Christ.

Considering these defining terms of righteousness, is it any wonder the enemies of God seek to persecute those whose lives bear the resemblance of their Redeemer? The persecutor hates the righteous because it reveals his own unrighteousness.

We really don’t like to think of things like this. But there are men, women and children across the face of the earth having to make these same decisions every day. They willingly offer their lives, experience monumental loss, face unfathomable pain and agony without wavering in their faith. God’s gracious gift of salvation in Jesus Christ has become their relentless testimony as they face their persecutors.

Persecution is inseparable from righteousness. But, we have assurance that in every form of adversity wrought by our faith in Christ Jesus, "we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

Father, we pray for those who are being persecuted on account of their unwavering testimony of faith in Jesus Christ as Redeemer, Savior, and King. Lord, grant them an extra measure of grace as they face their accusers, assure them of Your boundless love, and show them Your glory as they are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, amen.