In all honesty, I feel pretty ill-equipped to speak about persecution. As an educated, white, middle-class woman, it’s fair to say that I haven’t experienced much persecution. Unless you count the 7th grade boy who tortured me in middle school, this is pretty new territory.
So, I want to focus on the second part of the beatitude and then come back to the first part. What I found particularly interesting about this beatitude is that it repeats the same promise of blessing as the first beatitude. The Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. All the other promises have a future connotation. The poor in spirit and the persecuted have the kingdom of Heaven… now.
When I think about the Kingdom of God, I think about God’s vision for the world… i.e. what the world looks like when God makes the rules. It turns conventional wisdom on its head. Love your enemies. Do not worry about food or clothing. Give to the one who takes from you. Forgive with abandon.
How exactly does persecution and a poor spirit make the Kingdom more accessible in the present?
I have a few relationships with deeply committed Christians who have endured significant hardships because they are fighting for justice and seeking to do what is right. In all cases, their unique experiences have given them a perspective on the world that is unique. They understand the vast differences between the kingdom of this world and the Kingdom that God began breaking into this world through Jesus Christ. In a sense, they have experienced the costliness of bringing God’s kingdom into the now. And it would make sense that… the Kingdom of God is theirs.
I like to talk about the Kingdom of God a lot. I paint beautiful pictures in my sermons of a world where the wrongs are made right and where everyone has enough. However, Jesus invites us to be bearers of the Kingdom now. Jesus invites us to bring the beauty of the Kingdom into the darkest places in the world. Painting pictures about the future isn’t enough. It requires action.
And when we do that, we will be persecuted. When we enter into these places of darkness, we will face challenge upon challenge. And when we do that, we might end up feeling defeated and poor in spirit.
But when we do that, we are blessed.
Jesus isn’t asking us to be martyrs, but he is inviting us to be about the work of the Kingdom… and to be prepared for all that is to come when we take those steps.