Monday, 8 November 2021
Title: A New Normal?
By: Ong Hwee Soo

Matthew 5:10-12
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” (v10)

It is significant indeed, that Jesus places this eighth and final Beatitude right after ‘peace-making’ (v9), because the world thrives on strife and hostility, so much that peacemakers are not always welcome. Someone said, “Society demands conformity: if you fall below its standards, it will punish you; if you rise above its standards, it will persecute you.

Christ’s principles are superlatively above societal standards, as exemplified in Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, beginning with the Beatitudes. The religious establishment of the day was so irked by Jesus’ teachings, they persecuted Him.

Many Christians find it difficult to grapple with the subject of persecution because they cannot accept the fact that those who reject Christ will also reject followers of Christ.

The reason for persecution in v10 is “because of righteousness” and in v11, Jesus adds “because of me”. Jesus plainly told His disciples, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:18). Jesus likened His disciples to the prophets of old; preparing them to expect persecution as normal, “the same way they “persecuted the prophets before you?” (v12).

Hence, persecution is not to be considered as an anomaly, a calamity or misfortune, but accepted as a norm, as a consequence of following Christ. Even if a church/es or a Christian/s were to experience persecution for the first time, the answer to the above captioned question is, it is not a new normal, Apostle Paul affirms his protégé, Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (II Timothy 3:12)

The Beatitudes begins and ends with “the kingdom of Heaven” (v5 & v10). In the Gospels, we see the kingdom portrayed as “Already’ and ‘Not Yet’. Already Jesus has come to bring us salvation but not yet has He returned to take us home with Him in glorification forever. Already Jesus reigns but not yet has His final kingdom come.

Meantime, in the here and now, Apostle Paul encourages that we as children of God are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may be glorified with Him.” (Rom.8:17)

The acronym ‘HEIRS’ may be used to describe the various forms of persecution faced by Christians:
H: Hate (Matt. 10:22, John 15:18); Hurt (10:17b); Harassed and Hunted down (10:18-19a & 23, Acts 23:12-21).
E: Excluded (from civil rights/privileges, 10:14), Executed (10:21 & 28, 14:10; Acts 12:2)
I: Insult (5:11, I Peter 4:14); Interrogate and Invoke human laws (10:17a, 19b); Intimidation and Imprisonment (4:12; Acts 4: 18, 5:18,16:23)
R: Rejection (10:14); Ridicule (5:11b; Luke 10:16).
S: Suffering (I Peter 4:12-14; II Cor. 4: 12)

What’s the proper Christian response to persecution? Jesus motivated His disciples to “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward” (v12), at the ultimate consummation of the kingdom. Having survived stoning by Jewish persecutors at the city of Lystra, Paul encouraged the disciples “to continue in the faith, and saying that through many afflictions we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Act 14:19-22; II Tim. 3:10-11). Again, Paul encourages Timothy, “if we endure, we will also reign with him”. (II Tim.2:12). Apostle John declares in Revelation 20: 6, “… they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him…”

Martin Luther King put the persecution perspective right when he said, “Christianity has always insisted that the cross we bear precedes the crown we wear.”

Dear God, grant us strength to Live the Life of endurance rather than of escape, in the face of suffering. Amen.

标题: 新常态?

【马太福音 5:10-12】
“为义受逼迫的人有福了!因为天国是他们的。” (10节)。

耶稣将这第八个也是最后一个福放在 “使人和平”(9节)之后,确实很重要,因为世界在纷争和敌意中蓬勃发展, 以至于缔造和平的人并不总是受欢迎。有人说:“社会要求从众,如果您低于它的标准,它会惩罚您;如果您超越它的标准,它就会迫害您。”



第10节中,逼迫的原因是 “因为义” ,而在第11节中,耶稣添加了 “因为我” 。耶稣清楚地告诉祂的门徒: “他们若逼迫我,也要逼迫你们” (约翰福音第15章18节)。耶稣把祂的门徒比作古代的先知;准备他们看受逼迫为正常的, “就像他们 ‘逼迫你之前的先知一样?’” ( 12 节)。

因此,逼迫不应被视为一种反常,一种灾难或不幸,但被接受为一种常态,作为跟随基督的结果。即使教会或基督徒第一次遭受逼迫,对上述问题的答案是,这不是新常态。使徒保罗肯定他的门徒提摩太: “不但如此,凡立志在基督耶稣里敬虔度日的,也都要受逼迫。” (提摩太后书第3章12节)

八福以 “天国” (5 节 & 10节) 开始和结束。在福音书中,我们看到国度被描述为 “已经” 和 “尚未”。耶稣已经来了,给我们带来救恩,但祂还没有回来带我们在荣耀中回家,直到永远。耶稣已经作王,但祂最后的国度还没有到来。

与此同时,此时此地,使徒保罗鼓励我们作为神的儿女是 “既是儿女,便是後嗣,就是神的後嗣,和基督同作後嗣。如果我们和祂一同受苦,也必和祂一同得荣耀。” (罗马书第8章17节)

首字母缩略词 “继承人” (HEIRS) 可用于描述基督徒面临的各种形式的迫害:
H:恨恶(马太福音10章22节,约翰福音15章18节);伤害 (10章17b节);被骚扰和追捕(10章18-19a节 & 23节,使徒行传23章12-21节)。
E:被排斥在外(来自公民权利/特权,10章14节),被处死(10章21 & 28节,14章10节;使徒行传12章2节)。
I:侮辱(5章11节,彼得前书4章14节);审问和援引人类法律(10章17a节, 19b节);恐吓和监禁(4章12节;使徒行传4章18节, 5章18节,16章23节)。

基督徒对逼迫的正确回应是什么?耶稣激励祂的门徒 “要欢喜快乐,因为你们的赏赐是大的” (第 12 节),在国度最终实现时。保罗在路司得被犹太迫害者用石头砸后幸存下来,他鼓励门徒 “恒守所信的道,我们必须经历许多苦难才能进入上帝的国度。” (使徒行传14章19-22节;提摩太后书3章10-11节)。保罗再次鼓励提摩太, “我们若忍耐,就必与祂一同作王”。 (提摩太后书 2章12节)。使徒约翰在启示录20 章 6 节宣告, “……他们将成为上帝和基督的祭司,他们将与祂一起作王……”

马丁·路德·金 (Martin Luther King) 纠正了逼迫的观点说:“基督教一直坚持 我们所背的十字架先于我们所戴的冠冕。”

亲爱的上帝,请赐予我们力量,在苦难面前 活出忍耐的生命 ,而不是逃避。阿们。