“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. … Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” — Matthew 5:3,10 9 (NIV84)
Jesus took His disciples up on a mountainside and preached to them and to the others who had been following Him, and this would become the longest recorded message we have of Jesus speaking (The Sermon on the Mount). He began the sermon with what we call the Beatitudes. The first and last phrases of the Beatitudes refer to the kingdom of heaven. The interesting thing is that the tone of these two verses bears some negativity. Jesus said that those who are members of His kingdom would be “poor in spirit” and face persecution. Interestingly though, Jesus said that they are blessed.
What we must understand about our citizenship in the kingdom of God is that we are forced into starkly contrasting experiences as we live out our lives in this world. Like Jesus, even though we live lives reflecting the love of Christ and we bear a message of peace and forgiveness, the world does not treat us in turn. The people of this world resist, fight, argue, and even attack us because of our Christian worldview. As Jesus said in the Gospel of John, we will shine like lights in the world, but the world will not accept the exposing ability of the light and will retaliate against it. It doesn’t matter how loving and peaceful our lives are. If we live compelled to let our light shine to the world around us people will resist and meet our love with resistance and persecution. Such is the workings of the kingdom of this world. But all this must be, if we are going to allow God to work through our lives to reach, and win, some who are living in this world to His heavenly kingdom.
It is essential that we recognize that the end result of our effort is not being “poor in spirit” or persecuted. It may feel at times that that is the end result, but it is not. The true end result is that we are blessed. We are blessed by the gracious King we serve. We will be blessed by staying true to the principles of our King, and His kingdom. He Himself will be with us even as we live through trials and persecution. By the power of His Holy Spirit, He will sustain our faith and get us through difficult times. By continuing to walk steadfastly true to our heavenly citizenship we will be blessed and assured that ours “is the kingdom of heaven.”