“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven.” Matthew 5:10-12
Being an outcast is not generally a situation we humans consider enjoyable. No one enjoys being insulted, assaulted, or ostracized. We consider a life at risk or taken to be a tragedy. God designed us with a strong desire to connect with each other and to protect human life at all costs. Because of this, we tend to have difficulty applying the above verses. What could possibly make being ostracized something to be celebrated? If we are designed with the need for each other, why would we be told the opposite made us so blessed as to be envied?
The answer lies in previously mentioned blessings: humility, mercy, purity, hunger for truth, the ability to grieve, and selflessness. All of these blessings are characteristics that bind us to one another, lead us to pursue what is best for each other. They are qualities that lead to action no matter the cost, which fact leads us to another blessed character trait, that of peacemaker.
The world tries to, and far too often succeeds in, convincing us that peace can only exist in the absence of conviction, that it is only gained by giving each other exactly what we want when we want it. The problem is that there is no such thing as absence of conviction. Selfishness is the conviction that I am more important than anyone else, and is the source of such confused behavior. Peace can never be achieved by promoting selfishness; though some goodhearted souls may destroy themselves by trying to be all things to all men, those with conviction of their own importance will never submit to anyone else’s desires. They will end in conflict with other equally selfish individual, and no one will actually be satisfied.
Humility, mercy, purity, hunger for truth, the ability to grieve, and selflessness are also conviction, but not in self. They are conviction that we have a Source, a purpose greater than any human desire, a mission to convict others of the same. This conviction of and reliance on the Source of all we are and have eliminates the desire for validation of self. It quiets the commotion the world seeks to create within us by focusing us on the Source of truth. It leads us to seek to create that same quiet focus, that peace, within other individuals.
We can all understand the blessing of such inner peace; the entire world seeks after it even if they misunderstand how to get it. But what does being a peacemaker have to do with persecution? The peacemaker, the holder of conviction in greater than self, doesn’t cater to human desires, their own or anyone else’s. Those with conviction of their own self-importance cannot comprehend that kind of strength. They live in fear and misery because they can never actually get everything that they want and thus will never possess the security to not care how others react to them.
The peacemaker, knowing this, accepts personal tragedy as unimportant. The peacemaker knows that only the Source of humanity holds what is best for humanity, that nothing treasured by the selfish can bring true security, that no attack from the selfish can break the quiet of truth. They rejoice, not because they suffer, but because they are unbroken. They rejoice in the conviction that the blessing is so much greater than the suffering. They rejoice because they have eternal peace.