The final stage of being qualified to stand in the authority of heaven on earth is that of being persecuted for the sake of righteousness. The first thing to say here is that we must see the persecution come for the sake of righteousness, and not for any other reason. Persecution for the sake of any other issue is not what Jesus is speaking about here. This is not about being political activists, or doctrinal watchdogs, or adopting extreme positions on controversial issues. This is about being people who are consumed with God, passionate that all people and things become what they ought to be according to the design of God, and who have given their lives to that pursuit in the character of humility, meekness, and love.
The fact is that people like this will not be received well by the general population. At the same time that there is a longing and desire to be like Him, there is also a deep ambivalence rooted in our determination to be the god of our own little world. It’s a pathetic posture, really, a position polluted by megalomania. The assumption that we have what it takes to rule our world is so unrealistic and patently untrue. No matter how much we control, there are so many factors beyond our control that any human authority apart from God dangles by the most fragile of threads. History has proven this again and again, and we ignore the truth to our own detriment.
Having said this, it is an immensely unpopular stance to challenge the sovereignty of the individual and ask them to give up the right of self-direction for the sake of submitting to God. Though some people – prepared by the Holy Spirit and wooed by the heart of God – will hear that invitation and respond gladly, many will resist it to the point of persecuting those who stand with Jesus in the purposes of God.
Persecution has been the real experience of Godly people through the ages, and Jesus’ promise is that we will experience it as well. However, it is His desire that we see the real blessing behind the experience, and rejoice that we are numbered with the faithful through the centuries. We will be faced with trouble as we preach, teach, and live these principles. It is the way of the Kingdom of God, and it will be our way as well.