So here we are at the end of our series on raising world-changers. This last instruction, if you will, spans three verses.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (vs. 10-12).
It is fitting that these verses would tie up the passage that started with “blessed are the poor in spirit,” those who have come to the realization that they are nothing apart from God. To go from that to rejoicing in persecution is quite the journey.
If Matthew 5:3-12 was piece of classical music, it would be Handel’s Messiah without a doubt. Every year as a college student I would go to my school’s performance of this great masterpiece and listen. At times, different parts of it would become arduous, and in my mind, not terribly melodic (not a fan of the Baroque style!). But then the Hallelujah chorus would start, the crowd would rise, and the three hours of listening to music I didn’t really relate to, suddenly became completely worth it.
If you’re familiar with the ending of that piece you know that the story goes that King George II was so moved by the Hallelujah chorus that he stood and required everyone else to do so also. Matthew 5 reminds me of this in that we live in this world, hopefully at some point recognizing our need for Christ, continue on our journey becoming more like Him the more we take on his character, as outlined in the text. Finally, the crescendo of the passage and of our relationship to Him culminates in the one thing we are all afraid will happen but that God sees as the ultimate test of our commitment: persecution.
I don’t relish the idea of persecution. My kids and I talk about it frequently. We talk about what’s happening to Christians in our military and around the world. We talk about the strength of our faith as compared to the fervor of a jihadist who will give his/her life for something they believe in hoping that what they are dying for delivers on the promises they’ve bought into. I wonder sometimes if I have the faith of a jihadist. Would I send my 7-year-old to the training grounds of this faith knowing that once trained they would give their life for a cause?
How much more willing and submitted to the idea we should be given that we know the truth and the Truth-teller. Not only do we know this Person we’ve submitted to, we have a relationship with Him. We’ve talked to Him, daily, hopefully. Christianity, is the only “religion” whose followers have an intimate relationship with the One whom they serve. I just find it interesting that people all over the world will give their lives for so much less with no guarantees. Striking, isn’t it?
The verses immediately following could have started with after all. We have a list of guidelines that we are to follow if we are to be different than the rest of the world with the goal of offering hope. Following are the verses that explain, after all, we are the light of the world, we are the salt of the earth. We lose our saltiness by letting our faith grow stale. We hide our light to avoid standing out from the crowd because of what that could mean. Yet, we want people to come to Christ. Why would they when we look no different than anyone else?
This is a tricky concept to teach teenagers who want nothing more than to be included, accepted and able to fit in. When I tell them we are not here to fit in because this is not our final destination, they understand it, but I don’t know if they buy it. Don’t get me wrong. I have great kids in whom I do see a spark of defiance aimed at the world’s system, but then there are other times when the choices aren’t as good. The same could be said about me. Some days I’m all in. Some days I struggle.
I’ve decided that none of the commands of Scripture are attainable apart from the help of the Holy Spirit and having the mind of Christ, that is, an eternal perspective. So what I’ve learned from this study as I attempt to maneuver two teens through a broken culture is if I teach them nothing else, I want them to learn from me that an eternal perspective is what gives life. If we could grasp the concept of delayed gratification and apply it to what we’re saving up for eternally, I think the cost would make more sense. Not only that, but to have the King stand and say “well done” would be worth the sometimes difficult task of living here on earth.
How about you? What have you learned about parenting in light of Matthew 5? I’d love to hear from you.