The Beatitudes (Part 3)
Thus far we have considered six beatitudes - "Blessed are the poor in spirit...Blessed are those who mourn...Blessed are the meek...Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness...Blessed are the merciful...Blessed are the pure in heart..." (Matt. 5:3-8)

The seventh beatitude is seen in Matthew 5:9 - "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." Peace is generally thought of as the absence of conflict or war, but to the follower of Christ it is much more. It includes an internal component of contentment, even in the midst of trials, conflict, and persecution. This is the peace from God that surpasses human understanding (Phil. 4:7). One is rightly considered a "peacemaker" when he seeks reconciliation and strives to live peaceably with all (both men and God). A true peacemaker is one who shares the gospel of peace in hopes of fostering spiritual reconciliation. Christians should always seek external peace to the best of their ability (Rom. 12:18), but it should not be acquired at any cost. If peace can be achieved without compromising one's convictions, purity of heart, and earnest desire for righteousness, then it must be pursued. The humble and wise "peacemakers" will be joyful; however, the selfish and foolish "piece-makers" (p-i-e-c-e makers; i.e., lovers of conflict and division) within the body of Christ will be miserable.

Finally, Jesus said - "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:10). To be "persecuted for righteousness' sake" is to suffer at the hands of others for doing right. This is much different than being punished for wrongdoing (I Pet. 4:12-16). It should be realized that in order to maintain peace, one must sometimes suffer persecution. If one is faithful to the Lord, he should expect persecution (II Tim. 3:12; John 15:18-20). One should react to persecution as Christ did. He did not retaliate but denied Himself. He did not develop grudges but had a spirit of forgiveness. He did not become depressed but grew stronger and closer to His Father. Those who suffer because of their loyalty to the kingdom of heaven are blessed by being bound more closely to the kingdom for which they suffer. The joy in being persecuted is found when one realizes he is suffering for the name of Christ (e.g., Acts 5:41; 16:22-25). All who suffer as faithful servants of the Lord should "leap for joy" (Luke 6:23)!

Matthew 5:12 reads - "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Though Christians should live joyfully here on Earth, their ultimate reward will be "in heaven." Let it always be remembered that the suffering experienced here is nothing in comparison to the bliss God has in store for His faithful ones (Rom. 8:18). Also, Christians should find comfort and strength in the example of the prophets (and the Christ, I Pet. 2:21-24), understanding that persecution for righteousness' sake is not a sign of God's disfavor. Persecution should be embraced, not resisted, as a way to further develop one's character through suffering (James 1:2-4; Rom. 5:3-5).

It is worthwhile to note there seems to be a logical progression to the beatitudes. After one comes to realize his sinfulness, he must empty himself of pride and self-sufficiency (i.e., become "poor in spirit"), and he must "mourn." This will make it easier to submit to God completely and be strong under His control (i.e., "meek"). Such a person will naturally "hunger and thirst after righteousness" for he realizes without God and His spiritual nourishment, he is destitute. To strongly desire to do what is right should lead one to be "merciful" as God was to him, and it will also help in the effort to be "pure in heart." One who is full of mercy and devoted to purity is highly qualified to be a "peacemaker." However, a person who possesses these attributes of true joy will be hated by the world and will suffer as one "persecuted for righteousness' sake."

Friends, you would do well to put the beatitudes to memory and frequently reflect upon them as a guide for examining the inner man (II Cor. 13:5). The daily prayers of all disciples could be greatly enriched by reflecting upon these wonderful attributes and requesting divine help in developing a character in which perfect joy is manifested.