Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Beatitudes employ classic speech technique: Jesus tells us what he’s going to say, he tells us what he’s saying, and then he tells us what he said, expanding along the way. He is truly a master orator. He returns here in verse 10 to ‘the kingdom of heaven’ with which he began. He also repeats the righteousness theme that he used in the middle of the Beatitudes.
In this penultimate verse, he begins summing up. He says that blessings abound for all those who are mistreated for being themselves, as God created them. Furthermore, by being our true selves, despite the suffering that may come, we create the world as God intends it to be, i.e., heaven.
So when we are pursued by those who would do us emotional, physical and spiritual harm, when we are told we need to conform to the world’s conception of who we are rather than God’s conception of who we are, we are enlarged with God’s Spirit. We are fortified so that we can continue our struggle against the wisdom of the world and toward the blessing of the divine.
I think of LGBTQIA groups. I think of the Syrian refugees, numbering in the millions, fleeing together from those who harm them. I think of the vilified Boomers. The vilified Millennials. I think of all who are attacked for being who they are, for striving to be as God intended them to be.
I know where some people go with this thought. We’re supposed to suffer. Sometimes it gets wrapped all up in Jesus’ crucifixion; we’re suffering because he did, because good Christians suffer for their faith. Suffering is God’s plan for our lives, according to them. So, is this what I am saying? Is pain and suffering somehow orchestrated by God for my own good, and for the good of the world? No. NO. Just NOOOOOOOooooo. That’s not what I’m saying AT ALL. I’m not saying that God orchestrates everything, but that God USES everything to our good.
I can give an example close to home. When my husband died, at his own hand, I was devastated. I was destroyed. A horrifying grief bowled me over, consumed me, causing me to live literally from one breath to the next. “Take the next breath. Don’t think further than that. Take the next breath. Don’t think further than that.” Over and over, because to think larger than the next breath was to be overwhelmed by devastating pain. “Breathe…breathe…breathe…” was my mantra. I wondered when the agonizing pain would end.
Well, the pain never ended. It never will. But what happened was that, over time, my soul expanded, allowing me to encompass the grief. Over time, sorrow did not constantly overwhelm me. Instead, it lived inside me as merely one of many emotions and thoughts.
Here’s the blessing (spoiler alert – Jesus already told us about it): with the ability to encompass such huge grief comes the capacity to encompass huge joy, as well. I appreciate life so much more, finding ridiculous delight in the smallest things. I found happiness – the blessedness that Jesus is expounding upon in the Beatitudes.
Did God send harm my way to expand my soul? Again – NOOOOooooo. But God will use all things to our good – even aiming the poison arrows of grief toward blessing. Jesus, in calling all who suffer ‘blessed’, says that though pain may come, we will be enlarged, so that our capacity for happiness – blessedness – grows beyond our imagining.
Expanded in Spirit and happy are those who are mistreated for daring to live as their divinely blessed selves, because in their noble struggle, they help create the world as God intends it to be.