The Beatitudes: blessed are the persecuted.
Image: Sacrificial Grace, Makoto Fujimura
“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom". Matt 5:10 (The Message)
Our commitment to a cause can come with all kinds of challenging scenarios. We often find that our passion for something can be misconstrued and maligned by the prejudice of an alternative perspective. Whether it be religious or righteous we all face the push back of the opposing prejorative.
Throughout history people have been persecuted for their religious fervour, today being no exception where we find more people persecuted for their faith than ever before. Just last year 7,000 people people were killed for their Christian beliefs. You would think we had advanced as a human race to allow tolerance and inclusion the upper hand.Persecution is alive and well on planet earth, fuelled by bias, prejudice and racism. None of us are immune to its ploys especially when we are backed into a corner and forced to fight for our perspective.
An ancient Hebrew prophet taken into slavery by the dominant culture of his day found himself confronted with a foreign worldview that would severely test his faith commitment. His stand would eventually place him in the way of life threatening circumstances that have become heroic tales of mythic proportions. Daniel, at a very young age was forced to make decisions well beyond his years, and along with his friends find new ways to survive. His intuitive survival instincts would help him to understand the full breadth of cultural compromise.
The church so often demonises culture and fails to understand its capacity to help us learn and evolve. Daniel’s conscience became his guardian, helping him to defend his integrity and avoid unnecessary conflict. The conscience is the last bastion for our internal morality, an internal morality that is not driven to try and change everyone else.
Daniel saw God working on foreign soil, hiding in the fabric of the military state. He acknowledged the king was Gods portent and a part of the masterplan to enlarge our worldview and broaden the storyline. No one faith or cultural paradigm owns Gods or has complete ownership of the truth.
Persecution that occurs when our faith is in exile is Gods way of opening our eyes to other possibilities. We often do our best work when we are under pressure and faced with insurmountable opposition. The fall back for Daniel was the posture of prayer, a daily cry of dependence and reliance on outside assistance. Prayer is the universal spiritual language of all people, given to make life bearable in the light of divine interaction. It works to re-langauge our lives, to calm the soul and centre the heart. And as Jesus said. ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’ Prayer brings relief to persecution and gives us new meaning in the moment.
Here is my attempt to re-write this beatitude in the light of my current circumstances.
'Blessed are you when your humanity is exposed to uncontrollable circumstances, for then a divine strength appears to bring you grace’.