What action does God take in Matthew 5:1-12 toward others?
Although Matthew doesn’t specifically use the words, “God gives,” we can clearly see that God is giving rewards to people with specific godly character traits. Throughout almost all of the verses, God gives blessings to his people.
Vs. 3 – God gives the kingdom of heaven to those who are poor in spirit.
Vs. 4 – God gives comfort to those who mourn.
Vs. 5 – God gives the earth to those who are meek.
Vs. 6 – God satisfies those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Vs. 7 – God gives mercy to those who are merciful.
Vs. 8 – God gives the opportunity to see him to those who are pure in heart.
Vs. 9 – God gives the name “sons of God” to those who are peacemakers.
Vs. 10 – God gives the kingdom of heaven to those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.
What action does God call me to take toward God? Toward others?
There is only one command in this passage of Scripture and it’s found in verse 12.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
This command to rejoice and be glad isn’t a general call for joy though; it is a unique command in light of persecution and suffering on Christ’s account. While this seems strange to many Christians, the Bible emphasizes that every Christian will experience persecution for following Christ. Paul said, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).”
Rather than being an unfortunate by-product, the Scripture indicates that persecution may be a gift from the Lord.
Philippians 1:29 says,
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.
To suffer for the sake of Christ has been granted to us as a favor . . . or a gift of grace. The Bible says that suffering is a gift of grace from God himself! Our joy doesn’t come in spite of suffering, it comes as a part of the unique gift Christ gives his followers.
Rev. Richard Wurmbrand, the founder of Voice of the Martyrs, said,
The prison years did not seem too long for me, for I discovered, alone in my cell, that beyond belief and love there is a delight in God; a deep and extraordinary ecstasy of happiness that is like nothing in this world. And when I came out of jail, I was like someone who comes down from a mountaintop where he has seen for miles around the peace and beauty of the countryside and now returns to the plain. (Rev. Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ).
What actions did I take? Or, what actions will I take?
The command is clear, but how do we do it? A great way to start is to learn from the examples of other Christians who have been in situations described in Matthew 5:10-12. In the book of Acts, those who suffered “rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name (Acts 5:41).”Read the book of Acts and notice how Peter, John and the believers reacted to persecution.
Read Rev. Richard Wurmbrand’s books to see what he did in the midst of prison isolation and throughout his fourteen years of imprisonment. Make it a point to read the testimonies of Christians (both past and present) and their experiences with suffering for the sake of Christ. Take time to learn from Polycarp and Perpetua and countless others throughout the history of the church.
Pray that God would make this a reality in your life.
It’s important to obey God’s command even if you don’t fully understand it or feel it. Joseph Hovsepian, son of the martyred Haik Hovsepian, shared how he was able to forgive his father’s murderer. He said that forgiveness came only after repeatedly obeying Christ’s command, even though he didn’t have the feeling to forgive for quite some time.
The command to “rejoice and be glad” isn’t something that we should wait for . . . in each and every situation, we should practice this command now.