Friday, September 14, 2012
BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO ARE PERSECUTED BECAUSE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
“Don’t give up!” my best friend, Amy, cried with me. “We are with you,” she spoke hugging me. I kept my chin up, tears and all, fighting hard to resist that temptation of walking away from it all. The thugs came consistently to warn me about what they would do to my younger son if I continue to dwell on it.
Just the other day, my eldest son was dragged away to prison for a charge of speaking against the authorities. He was simply protecting me from being beaten by a group of men. Both my younger son and I were punched and kicked as we held on to him so tightly like any mother or a close brother would. While they pulled away my son, they screamed with hatred, “We shall return!”
That day, if not for Amy, I would have gone crazy from overwhelming sorrow. I had never felt such pain since the time my husband was sentenced to die for a crime he didn’t commit. It was a trump-up charge by the authorities.
Ever since that day my husband and I gathered a group of people to fight against injustices for all the farm workers, we were targeted. We could no longer stand in silence to watch the employers and land owners exploited these helpless humans. They were treated like slaves, toiling all day for a meagre pay. All we want was to tell the bosses that they depended on the workers too. And to remind them that it was God that gave them ability to get wealth.
Every time I wanted to give up, there would be people like Amy and so many poor souls coming to lift up my spirit. Even my younger son fought back tears, telling me to fight on. I would never forget those words he said to me, “Don’t let papa down!”
Just as I was feeling that we are fighting a losing battle, I heard some noise outside my house. It was Joseph, a man known for his compassion, came to see me with many people. “Erica, we came here to tell you something,” he spoke gently. “There are now more and more workers joining your, “Justice for Workers” campaign and we have decided to have you continue leading us. As for your safety, we have already kept in touch with some good people in high places and they said they would support your cause,” he added. There was a thunderous applause as Joseph finished. I felt as if a bright light just dawned on me. I know the battle was not over yet but it was a huge relief for me.
“Can I suggest something to you, Erica?” Joseph asked politely. “Can we change the name from “Justice for Workers” to Justice for All” campaign?” The reason is that we would also want justice for your husband and for your oldest son,” he added and patted me on my shoulder to console me.
Deep down I knew that it would be a long battle to change a corrupt society. It would take a strong group of righteous people who feared only God to fight. And to win the battle, it entailed those who were willing to sacrifice, even their very lives!
I asked myself a deep question occasionally, “Do I want to hold on to my life or am I willing to give it away for the sake of others?” Although it was so extremely difficult, but inside me, there was this little glow of satisfaction that I just couldn’t explain.
One day, my younger son excitedly told me about a Person who claimed to be the Messiah who was passing by. It was the opportunity I wouldn’t want to miss. There was already a large crowd there and so we stood a distance away.
Then I saw Him. Just by looking at His eyes, I could sense He was somewhat different from the rest of us. He stood upright and spoke in a booming voice,
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. 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.”
The Messiah paused. Those last few words touched me deeply. It was as if Jesus the Christ explained that unexplainable satisfaction deep within my soul. It seemed absurd to be happy as being persecuted. But then, I understood exactly what the Messiah meant – I was in the centre of what God was doing and it fitted right in with Him. Right there and then, I didn’t care if I got any applause from men. All I wanted was the approval of God, even if it meant giving my life!
The eight and the last beatitude of Jesus speaks of being persecuted for righteousness and for Him. As Jesus also mentions prophets of old, he means sacrificing of lives as well. Many of those prophets died doing the will of God.
Depending on which country you live in right now, those words of Jesus may mean a lot or may not mean anything at all. In some countries today (Yes! Twenty first century!), there are still persecution of Christians, imprisonment, torture and even deaths as they preach the good news of Christ! For many other countries, Christians are free to worship and preach the Word to others without being persecuted or harassed. However, the ills of complacency and neglect in reaching the lost often follow this comfortable freedom.
A believer in Christ can make a choice to either be a true disciple of Christ or be someone who lives comfortably waiting for a pie in the sky.
The latter will choose not to get ‘dirty’ for God and others but cruise along life uninvolved in the things of God. These Christians may be happy once in a while but will never experience the true satisfaction that God offers in being a disciple of Christ. Regret awaits them when they leave this earth. Even when many of these grow old, their past apathy will haunt them greatly.
To those who choose to do the right thing, the tears that they sow will not go unnoticed by God. They will reap in joy! The hardship, suffering, torture and martyrdom for Christ, to God, it is of great honour! Sometimes it is such oxymoron when we glance at the beatitudes, but when we look closely, they were gems beyond the natural eyes. To the uninformed and ignorant, these were foolish sayings but to those disciples of Jesus Christ, the joy they found in God, is irreplaceable, priceless.
Next: You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world!