The Happy Hated

Bible Book: Matthew  5 : 10-12
Subject: Beatitudes; Persecution; Joy in Hardship
Series: Blessed (The Beatitudes)

“We spent one month in jail joyously.” That is what a man from India said recently upon being released on bail, along with five of his friends.

The words “jail” and “joyously” seem like strange bedfellows in that sentence. Most people would think that someone who considers jail to be a joy must be a hardened criminal, or certifiably insane.

The truth is that those are the words of a Christian. His name is Karketta, and back in September, he and five brothers from his church were asked to go to a man’s home and pray over his sick wife.

The police showed up, and after beating two of them, threw all of them in jail on a series of false charges.1

From the cozy seats of our safe American Christianity, our initial reaction to a story like that might be pity. We might think to ourselves, “How awful! Those poor men!”

But from the pages of Scripture, Jesus speaks to those men and says, “You brothers are blessed.”

If we were to imagine the Beatitudes as a wardrobe, clothing we put on, all of them are strange looking and ill-fitting garments at first glance.

Poverty, humility, hunger and thirst, are not the kinds of things we naturally want to wrap our lives in.

Of all the beatitudes, however, none seems so counterintuitive, so hard to fit onto our lives and figure out in our minds, as the last one on the list.

Jesus says that those who are persecuted, mistreated, and hated in this world are happy and truly blessed.

If we listen carefully to what our Lord says here, we realize that He is not describing a strange masochism, or any kind of false martyr syndrome.

Rather, he is addressing a persecution that is inevitable, and a reward that is eternal. He is stating the facts for those who follow Him, and if we would be truly blessed, we have to figure how this text applies to us.

With that in mind, I think the very first question we ought to ask with regards to this beatitude and what it describes is this:


The word translated “persecuted” in this verse literally describes being pursued, chased, and hunted down. The purpose of that pursuit is to do violence to someone.

Jesus also speaks of being verbally assaulted - maligned, mocked, slandered, and falsely accused.

At the very beginning, we ought to be honest enough to say that as American Christians this does not seem to describe our current experience.

Our tribe may not be the most popular in our society, but someone saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” hardly equates to the kind of persecution Jesus describes here.

Does that mean you should not feel the relevance of this beatitude for your life? Is Jesus talking to some other kind of disciples?

The answer is, no. He is talking to us, and we have to realize how His words apply to us. Consider that:

A. Your context shouldn’t eliminate this reality

Jesus calls them blessed who are “…persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” He says that you are blessed whenever someone, “…shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for [His] sake.”

While the relative religious freedom we enjoy in America might make this persecution less of a reality for us than say, a believer in Syria or Iran or North Korea, our context should not mean that this verse doesn’t apply to us.

Just living in a so-called “free country” should not mean that our faith in Jesus is persecution free.

I want you to listen to something the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy. In II Timothy 3:12, he said, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

Whether you live in the Muslim Middle East, or the culturally Christian Southeast of America, no true Christianity will be forever free of some kind of persecution.

John MacArthur tied this last beatitude to all the ones that precede it and said, “…those who faithfully live according to the first seven beatitudes are guaranteed at some point to experience the eighth.”2

The fierceness and form of the persecution may change depending on your context, but the fact of it should not.

If we are truly following Jesus, then we are following a Savior who went to a cross and calls us to take up our own cross as well.

Vance Havner once said, “Everybody wants medals these days, but nobody wants any scars.”

You cannot wear the crown of the Christian in eternity without a few scars from persecution before you get there.

With that in mind, as we think about the relevance of this persecution, not only should your context not eliminate this reality, but I would add further that:

B. Your Christianity shouldn’t ease this reality

If we as Christians never experience any sort of persecution, then either something is wrong with what the Scripture says about persecution, or something is wrong with our Christianity.

It must be the latter. I am afraid that the relative lack of persecution we experience is not because our world is so friendly toward Christianity, but rather because our Christianity is too friendly toward the world.

For many professing Christians, there is no persecution, simply because the fallen world sees very little in us that it dislikes, or that it sees as light exposing its darkness.

American Christianity is something like a harmless old hermit that may make a little noise now and then, but mostly stays put in its buildings, minding its own business.

But if we escape persecution because we eased up on the demands of Christianity and the gospel, we aren’t really Christian, and we aren’t truly blessed.

Preaching on this text years ago, John Piper pointed out how that if we really live righteously, we will at some point invoke the ire of the culture around us.

Among other things, he said:

If you cherish chastity, your life will be an attack on people’s love for free sex.

If you live simply and happily, you will show the folly of luxury.

If you walk humbly with your God, you will expose the evil of pride.

If you speak with compassion, you will throw callousness into sharp relief.

If you are spiritually minded, you will expose the worldly-mindedness of those around you.3

As Christians we don’t want persecution. We don’t go out looking for it. But, we don’t have to. If we really live out our faith, and live like Jesus, persecution will find us, no matter where we live in this world.

Recognizing this truth, we are led to another question we have to ask ourselves about this beatitude. That is:


In an article for Tabletalk magazine, a man name Michael Glodo writes something important about this particular beatitude. He says this persecution is:

“…not due to hypocrisy, judgmentalism, or just general obnoxiousness. It is certainly not the imagined persecution…that has more to do with identity politics than the cost of discipleship.”4

In other words, if you are a Christian, and you act like a jerk, and you get your feelings hurt because you don’t get your way personally or politically in America, that doesn’t mean you are persecuted in the way Jesus speaks of here.

Jesus is very specific about what brings the kind of persecution that makes you blessed. As we see what He says about this, do you meet His standard? Do you fulfill the reasons for this persecution?

Notice with me that Jesus speaks of:

A. The righteousness that brings persecution

Look again at verse 10. Jesus said, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…”

The reason they are persecuted is because of righteousness. In other words, they are persecuted for doing what is right.

A.T. Robertson said of this verse, “Posing as persecuted is a favorite stunt. The kingdom of heaven belongs only to those who suffer for the sake of goodness, not who are guilty of wrong.”

You cannot act like a devil and then cry like a martyr when you suffer for it. It is not persecution when people react negatively to some flaw in your life.

So, forget all those times at work when people got sick of your bragging and self-righteous boasting about how good you are. That doesn’t count.

Don’t include the times that your neighbor snarled at your hypocrisy or rejected your invitation to church on Sunday because he remembered how you acted on Friday. That is not persecution.

Jesus is describing those who are sincerely doing right and get punished for it. He is speaking of people who are hated for their genuine holiness.

This is the fellow who gets fired because he refuses to fix the books for the company. This is the girl who gets ostracized at school because she won’t gossip, party, and go along with the social stream of high school.

This is the college student who gets laughed at in class, or failed by a professor, because they refuse to bow to the secular worldview for the sake of a degree.

This is the mom who doesn’t get included in the housewives club anymore because she talks more about Jesus and the gospel than movies and TV shows.

 Have you ever suffered for doing right and being righteous? If you are truly a follower of Jesus, then somewhere, that will to happen to you, which leads us to see the other reason for this persecution.

Jesus speaks not only of the righteousness that brings persecution, but also of:

B. The relationship that brings persecution

Look now at verse 11. Jesus says, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.”

Don’t miss those last two words. Jesus said “for my sake.” I dare say that all of us have been tongue-lashed behind our backs or to our faces. I suppose none of us have escaped someone else’s bitter tongue.

But when was the last time you were ever mistreated for Christ’s sake? When have you ever been bad-mouthed for being a believer?

Jesus is speaking of those who are maligned and mistreated because of their relationship to Him. Their discipleship and dedication to Jesus brought persecution upon them.

I fear most of us rarely experience this and fulfill this reason for persecution because we live like Chameleons, rather than Christians.

We flash our Christian colors in the company of other Christians, where we feel comfortable and safe in doing so.

However, in other contexts out in the world, where Christianity is not the norm, or the expectation, we shift into a sort of quiet, undercover Christianity, in which unless someone asked us, we’d never think of bringing up the name of Jesus and our relationship to Him.

Mary Roach writes about learning that, for some reason, the Navy has designed its own kind of camouflage for its sailors. It is a blue colored print.

Wondering why in the world a sailor at sea would need “camo”, she asked a commander about it. He said, “That’s so no one can see you if you fall overboard.”5

If we blend in when we wade into the world around us, and keep our relationship to Jesus quiet, we will never have to worry about fulfilling the reason for this persecution.

But, we won’t be blessed either, and we won’t have any reason to rejoice in our being blessed. That leads to another question we have to ask ourselves as we think through this beatitude. That is this:


Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Let’s say that this week, someone blasts you and belittles you simply because you are following Jesus.

What would your response be? Honestly. Would you be sad? Would you feel angry? Would you start a public protest, hire a lawyer, decry the violation of your rights?

Listen to what Jesus says your response should be. He’s not even joking. He said, “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad…”

The language there describes someone who shouts, and dances a little jig out of sheer joy. That’s the response Jesus says His people ought to have when they are persecuted.

He is calling for a celebration after persecution. But, He calls for it based on a couple of specific reasons. Consider these with me. Our Lord calls for:

A. Celebrating because of anticipation

Again, Jesus claims that those who are persecuted are the truly blessed ones. They are really and truly happy.

So much so, that they should jump for joy when they are persecuted. Why such a seemingly strange response? He says in verse 10, “…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

And He then adds in verse 12, “…for great is your reward in heaven.”

For the persecuted believer to reasonably rejoice when they are hammered and hurt by persecution down here, they have to truly believe that what they will receive in the Kingdom of Heaven will far outweigh anything they’ve endured during the crucible of earth.

They must believe what Paul wrote in Romans 8:18, where he said, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

What Jesus says here would be insensitive and ridiculous were it not actually true that the reward of heaven is ten thousand times greater than the pain of the persecuted.

John Piper said, “This is the Lord speaking. This is not some pastoral novice that blunders into a funeral home slapping people on the back and saying, ‘Praise God, anyhow!’”

He goes on to say, “…he knows beyond any shadow of a doubt that the reward of heaven will more than compensate for any suffering we endure in the service of Christ.”6

This celebration requires a stouthearted faith. The degree to which you really believe what Jesus promises in eternity is the degree to which you will be able to celebrate persecution with anticipation of heaven.

The persecuted don’t count their scrapes and bruises. They don’t tally their losses in this life. They look beyond what they are suffering here in anticipation of what they are gaining over there.

Jesus calls for a response to persecution that celebrates! It is not only celebrating because of anticipation, but He also speaks of:

B. Celebrating because of association

Look again at verse 12. Jesus said, “Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

Jesus says that when you are persecuted for His sake, you can celebrate, not only because you will be greatly rewarded, but also because you will join a noble company of the battered but blessed.

The prophets before you were also persecuted. We could add that the apostles before you were also persecuted. And most importantly, the Savior before you was also persecuted.

The hymn writer, Isaac Watts, asked:

Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease,

While others fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas,

Are there no foes for me to face, must I not stem the flood,

Is this vile world a friend to grace, to help me on to God?

The answer, of course, is that we too must take up the cup of suffering in the long line behind our Lord. We too must be persecuted if we too would look forward to a crown.

But, though the cup of persecution would taste bitter in our mouths, it is sweet when it touches our souls, because it reminds us that there is joy unspeakable on the other side.

We are not masochists and volunteer martyrs. We don’t go out looking to drum up persecution, or make ourselves targets. That is not the call of this text.

Nevertheless, when persecution necessarily comes, we can actually celebrate it. We can rejoice when we are counted worthy to suffer in association with the prophets, with our godly ancestors, and with our Lord.

The scars on the body of Jesus are marks of His suffering. They are tokens of the persecution He endured at the hands of sinners and on the wood of the cross.

And yet, even now, those former wounds are marks of His glory. In heaven, He does not hide them in shame. Why, all of heaven praises the Lamb that was slain and sings the glory of His saving scars!

In heaven, there will be many a believer from all over the world who was beaten, bruised, cut, and carved up for the sake of Christ.

And yet, where they once were scarred, they are now crowned. Where they were once hated, now they are eternally happy. They rejoice and they are exceeding glad, for great is their reward in heaven.

This closing beatitude reminds us as believers that we shouldn’t look for the applause of this world. Let us not think that when everyone down here likes us and thinks we are cool, that we are doing the right thing.

Rather, when the light of our gospel exposes darkness and provokes persecution, that is when we are closest to Jesus and when we are truly blessed.

We cannot control when or how persecution comes. It is not our responsibility to initiate or create persecution for ourselves.

Our responsibility is to be the poor in spirit, to mourn over sin and wrong, to be meek, to hunger and thirst for righteousness, to be merciful, pure in heart, and make peace.

In short, we are to live like Jesus. If we do that, the persecution will surely come. And when it does, we can rejoice and we will be truly blessed.


1 “Christians in India praise God in spite of police brutality, month in jail”, 11/24/17,, accessed 11/30/17,

2 MacArthur, John, Matthew 1-7, (BMH Books, Winona Lake, IN, 1985), p. 220

3 Piper, John, “Blessed are the Persecuted”, 3/16/86,, accessed 11/30/17,

4 Glodo, Michael J., “Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake”, June 2017,, accessed 11/30/17,

5 Roach, Mary, Grunt, (W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 2016), p. 35

6 Piper, John, “Blessed are the Persecuted”, 3/16/86,, accessed 12/2/17,