“Your Word Is Truth”
‘Happy Those Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake’
TIME and time again Jesus and his apostles warned that Christians are to expect persecution.* But, in addition, Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount said, “Happy are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” (Matt. 5:10) That sermon, it might be noted, has well been termed “the greatest single sermon of all time, in its penetration, pungency, and power.”—Word Pictures in the New Testament, Robertson.
Note that Jesus did not refer to just any kind of persecution. No, but he said that it was those who suffered persecution for righteousness’ sake who were happy. Early Christians suffered such persecution. Thus the apostle Peter wrote them: “Because you do not continue running with them in this course to the same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you.”—1 Pet. 4:4.
Then again, God’s Word requires his servants to do what is righteous by giving Jehovah God exclusive devotion. That means to love him with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. They must obey God as ruler rather than men. When men demand that God’s servants do that which God forbids them to do, they have no alternative but to refuse to obey such men, with the result that God’s servants suffer persecution. This was the case with the early Christians who refused to engage in any kind of emperor worship and who suffered all manner of cruelties for refusing to do so. Such was indeed suffering for righteousness’ sake!
The same is true of Christians today who faithfully follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Many governments demand that the servants of Jehovah God violate their Christian neutrality and loyalty to God’s kingdom by joining political parties, by engaging in idolatrous exercises and by giving themselves over to unquestioning service of men and their institutions. To comply with such demands would be giving to Caesar that which belongs to Jehovah alone and would also be ignoring Jesus’ warning that “no one can I slave for two masters.”—Matt. 6:24; 26:52; John 18:36; Mark 12:17.
Because of the refusal of these Christian witnesses of Jehovah to compromise and break their integrity they have been persecuted most cruelly. This has been especially true in recent years and right up to the present time in certain newly formed nations of Africa. There Christians have been brutally beaten until unconscious, tortured until killed and women have been repeatedly raped. And why? Because they would not compromise on matters involving their relationship with God. Truly, all such is suffering for righteousness’ sake.
Other Christians have suffered persecution for righteousness’ sake in other ways. God’s Word tells them to “abstain . . . from blood.” Because of heeding this righteous command some parents have had their children taken away from them and had blood transfusions forced on them; others, because of their stand on blood, have been refused all medical treatment whatsoever. Still others have been abused, threatened, ridiculed, derided because of taking the Scriptural position on blood. All such ill-treatment that these have endured has likewise been suffering persecution for righteousness’ sake.—Acts 15:19, 20, 28, 29.
Other examples could be given, but these suffice to show that Christians today are being persecuted for righteousness’ sake. All these, Jesus said, were to be considered happy. How so? In what sense? In more than one sense. The physical suffering itself does not make them happy. But ever so many wives, and husbands too for that matter, who have suffered intense persecution from their mates because of taking their stand for Jehovah God and his kingdom, have, as a result of their faithful endurance, had the happiness of seeing their persecuting mates stop their persecution and become believers.
Certainly those who compromise to escape persecution cannot be said to be happy. They suffer the qualms of guilty consciences and many regrets. But those who are willing to take the persecution, rather than compromise or yield, are truly happy. They have a clear conscience, even as they are counseled to have: “Hold a good conscience, so that in the particular in which you are spoken against they may get ashamed who are speaking slightingly of your good conduct in connection with Christ.”—1 Pet. 3:16.
They also are truly happy because they know that by faithfully enduring persecution they are having a share in the vindication of Jehovah God as the rightful and loving Sovereign entitled to the exclusive devotion of his creatures. And at the same time they have the satisfaction of proving the Devil a liar when he boasted he could turn all men away from God. Yes, theirs is the inestimable privilege of making God’s heart glad, even as he himself says: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me.”—Prov. 27:11.
Why is this? Because from the book of Job it is clear that Satan taunted that God could not have men on earth who would remain true to Him in spite of all that the Devil could do to them. Job proved the Devil wrong and a liar, and as a result Job was declared happy, even as we read, “We pronounce happy those who have endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome Jehovah gave, that Jehovah is very tender in affection and merciful.” (Jas. 5:11) Likewise all Christians who prove the Devil a liar by faithfully enduring are happy.
Those who endure persecution for righteousness’ sake are also happy “since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them.” (Matt. 5:10) This will be literally true of those anointed footstep followers of Jesus to whom his words are primarily addressed. Enduring persecution for righteousness’ sake, they will receive a heavenly reward. Theirs will be the happiness of being “priests of God and of the Christ, and [they] will rule as kings with him for the thousand years” in the heavens.—Rev. 20:6.
All others who faithfully endure persecution for righteousness’ sake may also be said to have part in the kingdom of the heavens, for Jesus said to these: “Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world.” They will inherit the earthly realm or domain of that kingdom, holding it in trust for its heavenly rulers.—Matt. 25:34; 5:5.
God’s Word is truth. All who suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake are happy, and theirs is a twofold happiness: They enjoy happiness now and they will enjoy a greater happiness in the future. Truly, wise are those who endure persecution for righteousness’ sake now rather than to prove unfaithful to God!