Why Did Jesus Call The Persecuted Blessed?
It is difficult for Western Christians to understand the Sermon on the Mount. What does Jesus mean when He says, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness…?” Yet when 1800 house church leaders met in Hong Kong in 2015 their worship was filled with joy, celebration and hope even though they also described their situation in China as the worst period of persecution since the Cultural Revolution. Perhaps their response is similar to what the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:10 “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings…”
Why did Jesus say the persecuted are blessed?
• The reason for persecution
• The range of persecution
• The reward for the persecuted
Is religious persecution a contemporary problem?
• 77% of the world (5.3 billion) face religious persecution or oppression
• 300,000 have been killed in the last 10 years because of their faith
• 7,000 Christians are killed annually for their faith
• In 2003 there were 1.5 million Christians living in Iraq. Today there are less than 250,000
• 85% of people living in the Asia-Pacific experience religious restrictions and social hostilities
• Last year 21 Coptic Christians were martyred for their faith by ISIS in Libya
• Later dozens of Ethiopians were killed in similar fashion
• 5 million people have been driven from their homes in Northern Nigeria
• 147 students (largely Christian) were killed by Islamic terrorists at Garissa University in Kenya
What are the causes of religious persecution?
• Government oppression
• Militant religions
• Religious intolerance
• Mob violence
• Family violence
If the persecuted are blessed does that release us from responsibility for the persecuted?
• The church is commanded to remember them (Hebrews 13:3)
• When the church responds to the needs of the hurting church they are following the ministry pattern of Jesus (Luke 4:18)
• Persecution often hinders the spread of the gospel (Romans 10:14)
• Ministry to the persecuted brings hope and comfort to the afflicted (Philippians 4:10, 16-18)
• When the church speaks out we can make a difference