Persecuted for Righteousness (Matthew 5:11–20)
The Sermon on the Mount deconstructs religious assumptions and frees us to grow and flourish.
Deconstructing faith has become a bit of a buzzword over the past few years. It shows up in articles, social media posts, and in no small number of personal conversations. Church growth experts are worried by it, prophetic voice types are encouraged. How can deconstructing faith be encouraging?
When John the Baptist called people to come out and repent he was talking to religious people. They came out from Jerusalem to the wilderness. It was a fresh start. Jesus continues with much of the same, including sitting on a hillside to talk with those who are following him about what God really wants.
Jesus’s message does address religious practices (Mt. 6:1–24), but in a subversily non-institutional way. What Jesus’ sermon does not do is impart or highlight any sort of doctrinal dogma (other than the availability of God and his Kingdom). What he focuses on is how to keep getting up when we frustrations get us down. He encourages us to stay centered on being people who honestly treasure mercy enough to share it with others. The coolest part is that he goes on to show us how to do all of this without being manipulated by religious guilt. That is what I want for my own spiritual growth, and it is also what I am happy to see in the lives of people I love.
Where we are headed and why is it worth it?
There are 8 beatitudes that serve as the overview of what Jesus is going to teach in the Sermon on the Mount. Each of them refers to those who are blessed, as in:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Mt 5:10
Then Jesus expands on each of these by getting personal with those he is teaching. Blessed are “those” shifts to blessed are “you” as each of the 8 beatitudes are explained, starting with the last beatitude first in Matthew 5:11–20.
Persecuted for getting it right? Welcome to the Kingdom.
11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Character that is unmixed (like good salt), and unhindered (like a burning lamp) — that’s spiritual flourishing.
13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Deconstructing religious assumptions isn’t being unfaithful when it is for the sake of genuine spiritual growth.
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
“Persecuted for righteousness sake” is explained as an encouragement that even though what Jesus is teaching will sometimes be hard, it is more than worth it. He will help us to develop our integrity and our usefulness. And even though some will see what he is teaching as too untraditional and radical, he assures us that he is simply bringing the point of the ancient Abrahamic faith to their fullest expression. This is what God has wanted for us all along.
- Is this understanding of the Sermon on the Mount good news for you?
- What about for others you know; how could it help?
- If this is helpful, how can we get better at understanding, living, and sharing the Sermon on the Mount?
***These posts are simplified starting points for interactive discussions.