Reflection: This is the eighth and final beatitude. The previous one (“blessed are the peacemakers”) insisted that we must never do harm for the cause of Christ. This beatitude completes the thought: but we must be willing to bear harm for the cause of Christ.
Notice what that cause is: ‘righteousness’. As with Matthew 5:6 (“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”), this term refers either to God’s salvation or to our life in response to that salvation. Either way, Jesus’ point is that his followers must be willing to bear persecution for his good cause; not for being smug or mean-spirited or judgmental, or any of the other things for which Christians are sometimes condemned, but for ‘righteousness’.
What is ‘persecution’? The word literally means ‘pursued’. It typically refers to a systematic program to harass, sideline, or harm someone. Technically speaking, the word probably does include things like a simple media campaign to slander Christianity and Christians. But given that many Christians in the world are beaten, imprisoned, and killed for the Faith, I personally try to avoid using the term ‘persecution’ to refer to mere insults.
In any case, the blessing attached to this eighth and final beatitude is the same as the first beatitude: “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. This ‘book-ends’ these eight beatitudes, and suggests that all of them are equally about what it means to belong to God’s kingdom.
Question: What do you know about the persecution of Christians around the world? What more could you do to be informed? (Hint: www.opendoors.org.au)