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Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

by Michelle Wilson on June 24, 2022

Dear Friends,

This week, I’ve been meditation on this verse:

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
                            Matt. 5:10 (NIV)


Usually, when I think of persecution, I think about people being arrested, killed, driven from their homes, or denied services because of who they are. So, when I read these words, they seemed removed from my life. But then I found myself thinking that, though the disciples were soon to experience these things, when Jesus spoke these words to them, their lives and safety were not yet in danger. So, what did this teaching mean to them at the time they first heard it? I imagine they might have thought of all the ways they must have been criticized for simply doing what Jesus was doing alongside Jesus. 

Jesus was hanging out with poor people, sinners, and people like the Samaritans, who were considered religiously and ethnically impure by the Jews. Jesus was doing things that the religious leaders saw as breaking the Sabbath like healing people on Saturdays or picking and eating uncooked grain. And his disciples were doing all of these things with him. Surely they were exposed to the same criticism and anger that he was. And yet, Jesus says they are blessed when this happens because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

Most of us aren’t experiencing things we would consider to be significant persecution. But sometimes, acting like Jesus, who is our righteousness and guides us on the path of righteousness, will cause us to experience criticism from those around us. I remember once, many years ago, when Jamie and I were planning a Christmas party for our homeless friends, a family member gave us some money as a Christmas gift and suggested we could use part of the money for ourselves and part of it for our party. We were really excited about the party and ended up using all of the money for that. When we wrote a thank you note back to this relative and told them how wonderful the party had been and how much we appreciated their gift, the relative became angry. They read between the lines and realized we hadn’t gotten anything for ourselves. And they felt this was not using the money as they had directed us to use it. 

This was such a tiny thing between us and this family member, and it was forgotten by the next Christmas. But it was emotionally painful for us because we wanted the people who loved us to be able to share our joy in doing the things we loved doing. We felt sad, hurt, and lonely knowing our family members didn’t understand us and weren’t excited for us about the things Jesus was doing in our lives. This is hardly persecution. But it is in moments like these that we quietly decide to pursue what Jesus has put on our hearts instead of what others want or expect from us. And when we choose to pursue Jesus, we find ourselves greatly blessed. In the eyes of this world, we may be misunderstood and disapproved of and feel out of place. But we find ourselves instead at home in the kingdom of heaven as we grow in intimacy with Jesus, our Lord. And the joy we have in this relationship is greater than that of any human relationship.

May you always pursue the heart of Jesus. May you always be obedient to the direction of the Holy Spirit. On the days it makes you popular. And on the days it makes you unpopular. And may you be filled with joy in drawing near to God.

Love in Christ,
Michelle

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