Persecution should cause us to rejoice because it is another assurance that we are really God’s child. In this last Beatitude, persecution is included as one of the descriptions of a true Christian. It is a consequence of obeying the imperative aspect of each Beatitude, however imperfectly pulled off. So we should rejoice when others oppose us! Those who are opposed are truly happy! Use it as a reminder to think about what heaven will be like for us…no tears, no sin or death, living in the presence of God. Bask in another assurance of our salvation, an evidence of our obedience.
But make sure your persecution is not for your being hard to get along with, or your mixing politics into your spiritual life, or becoming over-zealous for any cause, or poking your nose into another’s business! For example, your sister-in-law is cutting you to pieces every chance she gets, but it is because she is so irritated with your constant retorts about her liberal political views. You can take no comfort in her opposition. It is not for doing what is right. Your sharp retorts do no good. Your actions cloud the gospel because it makes it seem that only conservatives are Christian. Put your hand on your mouth when politics comes up in the conversation.
If your character is really like that described in the Beatitudes, nominal Christians will often be offended. (That is my experience, at least, and an assertion of Martyn Lloyd-Jones.) If you are humbled by your sins, and have experienced the comfort that comes from repentance, and even though you are imperfect, you are seeking to be meek, merciful, and want the glory of God and peace, you will be exposing the sin of those around you as they contrast your attempts at doing what is right with their inner selves. It is offensive to them, especially if they think of themselves as a Christian. Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that this all goes back to the Bible’s Doctrine of Sin and their rejection of this historical view. Chapter 6 of the Westminster Confession (1647) gives a brief summary:
“2. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body… .5. This corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be through Christ, pardoned and mortified, yet both itself and all the motions thereof are truly and properly sin.”
A dead person cannot conjure up faith or authentic meekness or purity in life’s objectives; they are corrupt. They need a new innermost being or as Paul called it, “a new man.” It was opposition to this doctrine of sin that Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Thomas Watson ran up against. This part of the Westminster Confession shaped their application of the Beatitudes. Look through the Bible and church history and you will see David, Daniel, Jeremiah, Peter, Ignatius (martyred 107 AD), Polycarp of Smyrna (155 AD), Luther, John Bunyan, the Puritans, Charles Spurgeon, the warm-hearted Calvinists I list in my on-line book—- all held this view of total depravity and suffered persecution. No one seems to mind if you are humble and merciful as long as you will go along with their view that a spark of good remains in all of us so we are able to choose to follow Christ or to be meek or merciful.
So expect persecution if you are pursuing righteousness from a regenerated spirit and a renewed mind. “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:12).
FOR THE CHILDREN
Children can be so mean to one another. Bullying is here to stay. Don’t think for a minute that your children will escape opposition and being left-out if they love the Lord Jesus who loves them so. It will probably come from within their own family. Cousins can really lay it on! Prepare them for it by making sure they know what each Beatitude means and that persecution can warm their hearts with assurance that they are truly Christ’s. Have you reviewed the Lord’s Prayer and the Beatitudes lately for accuracy in memory work and understanding?
Warm-hearted Calvinists know how to use Biblical doctrines as a long-handled wooden spoon to stir the heart to be thankful, assured, and filled with love and praise for our Great God.