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Peace without Honor (Matthew 5:9-12)

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Matthew 5:9-121
February 1, 2004

Introduction

You know, if Jesus were here, I think he’d do things a lot differently. You know the saying, “What would Jesus do?” It makes us stop and think about how Jesus would behave in our situation. Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about that this week, with the Super Bowl coming up and all. And I think that if Jesus was in charge of the Super Bowl, I think he’d do things a lot differently. So, I’ve come up with a list of the

Top Twelve Things Jesus Would Do at the Super Bowl

(one for each of the twelve apostles)

  • Number 12. Throw moneychangers out of the concession stands
  • Number 11. Miraculously provide front row parking for everyone
  • Number 10. New ticket policy: “whosoever will may come”

 

  • Number 9. Grace-oriented pep talk in the locker room
  • Number 8. Encourage each team not to give offense to the other
  • Number 7. Command the waves

 

  • Number 6. Cancel all penalties for players who believe in Him
  • Number 5. Feed the crowd with only 5 hotdogs and 2 bags of peanuts
  • Number 4. Discourage any “Hail Mary” passes

 

  • Number 3. Clothe the cheerleaders
  • Number 2. Promote third-down conversions
  • and the Number 1 thing Jesus would do at the Super Bowl….
    Root for the Cowboys

Ok, I admit it’s a little silly to think about what Jesus would do at the Super Bowl. But it is true that Jesus had a way of thinking about life that was very different than the way we people usually think about life.

The New Testament tells us about the things that Jesus taught his followers as he tried to change their way of thinking to get them to think from God’s perspective instead of from a limited human perspective.

We are exploring his teachings in “The Jesus Curriculum”, a study of the major talks that Jesus gave to his followers. Today we continue our study of the “Sermon on the Mount” found in Matthew 5-7. I’ve called this part of the curriculum “The Kingdom Handbook” because it tells us how things work in God’s Kingdom. It is an instruction manual for those who want to follow Jesus and pattern their lives after his thinking.

Jesus’ message about the kingdom begins with the characteristics of the kingdom’s citizens. There are nine phrases that describe the kind of people that will really appreciate God’s kingdom. They are nine phrases that describe us.

These nine phrases are sometimes called “The Beatitudes” because they each begin with the word “Blessed” and describe how happy you will be when you realize what God’s kingdom is like. The word means someone who should be congratulated. So if you’ve discovered God’s Kingdom, then congratulations! You’re really going to like it.

But the characteristics Jesus describes are a little surprising. You’d think that the citizens of God’s kingdom would be the best and the brightest, the most noble, the most worthy, the most beautiful, the strongest and the bravest. But instead we find that God’s kingdom belongs to the poor and the nameless:

the Spiritually Bankrupt, who have nothing worthy of qualifying them for a relationship with God. Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

the Deeply Dismayed, who are grieved by the pain and suffering of this world which is caused by sin. They will be comforted.

the Completely Inadequate, who recognize that they just can’t do it, that they don’t have what it takes to live life. They are the ones who will inherit the Kingdom.

And we saw that God’s kingdom is going to be particularly satisfying for those who are Crying for Justice because there will be justice.

Those who are Unexpectedly Forgiving will love God’s Kingdom because they will undeservedly find forgiveness.

But the only way both these things can be true is because Jesus has died for our sins, satisfying justice, providing us with forgiveness, and giving us his own perfect righteousness so that we can be Absolutely Innocent and worthy to see God in the Kingdom. Because of Jesus, I really can have both liberty and justice for me.

The first three beatitudes tell us that God’s kingdom meets three great human needs: spiritual bankruptcy, grief, and inadequacy. The second set of three tell us God’s kingdom satisfies three great human desires: justice, forgiveness and innocence.

Title: Peace Without Honor

Today we come to the final set of three beatitudes. They each have to do with relationships between Kingdom citizens and all the other people in the world who do not belong to the Kingdom. Once again we have a paradox, because the citizens of the Kingdom are called to pursue peace with the citizens of the world, but Jesus says that their peaceful overtures will generally be answered with hatred and violence. The life of a Kingdom citizen in this world is a life of peace without honor.

If you are experiencing these three things in your relationships with the people around you, then congratulations! What you are experiencing is normal for a citizen of the Kingdom. That’s exactly the way God’s Kingdom works.

Promoting Harmony

The seventh beatitude is found in Matthew 5:9,

[Matthew 5:9] Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

This verse is not about those who are peaceful nor about pacifists, but rather about those who actively try to promote harmony in the world. Making peace is not a passive activity. Sometimes it requires confrontation when we would personally feel more peaceful if we simply ignored the problem and walked the other way. Sometimes making peace requires taking a tough stand and not giving up. Making peace is a pursuit. It is action, not apathy.

A citizen of the Kingdom is a peace peddler, representing Jesus, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), representing the God of Peace (Romans 15:33; 16:20; Philippians 4:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 13:20). That is why those who promote peace are called “sons of God” because they act just like their Daddy, the one who is the inventor of peace.

There are three aspects of the ministry of peacemaking mentioned in the Bible. First of all, the peace that we promote on earth is peace with God.

Romans 5:1 Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

We have peace with God. But we are also meant to help others find peace with God.

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 God…has committed to us the message of reconciliation. [20] We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us…. Be reconciled to God.

We bring a message to the world we live in. God is not their enemy. He loves everyone and wants to have a relationship with them. Part of making peace is promoting harmony between man and God.

But a second aspect of making peace is to try to get along with people while we’re here on this planet. To me there seems to be a good deal of antagonism these days between the American church and the people of the world. There’s a lot of “us vs. them”. But listen to what the Bible says about the desired relationship between the church and the people of the world.

Hebrews 12:14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men.

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, [12] so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders.

The third aspect of making peace is promoting harmony in the church. Even in the healthiest church, there will be conflicts and clashes. A peacemaker is one who works for reconciliation and harmony between brothers and sisters in the fellowship.

1 Peter 3:8-11 all of you, live in harmony with one another; … [9] Do not repay … insult with insult, but with blessing, … [11] seek peace and pursue it.

Romans 14:19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

Romans 12:16-18 Live in harmony with one another. …[18] If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Colossians 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.

Are you a peace promoter? Do your words and actions bring people into harmony with God, with you and with each other? If so, then congratulations! You are just like your Daddy, the God of Peace. You are experiencing one of the qualities that characterizes life in God’s kingdom.

Mistreated for Doing Right

Unfortunately, however, your attempts to promote peace will not always be met in kind. The eighth beatitude is in Matthew 5:10,

[Matthew 5:10] Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I seem to remember someone telling me that doing the right thing has its own reward. But sometimes, doing the right thing will bring you trouble. That’s the message behind this beatitude. If you have ever been mistreated because you did the right thing, then congratulations! You have just experienced another one of the qualities that characterizes life in God’s kingdom. However strongly you try to promote harmony in your relationships with those outside the kingdom, you are destined to experience their hatred, their abuse and perhaps even their violence.

When we read the word “persecution” in the Bible, we usually think of people who have been tortured or even executed because of their faith.

When I was growing up I remember reading the stories of people like Richard Wurmbrand, a pastor behind the Iron Curtain, who was imprisoned and tortured because of his faith. And I read about Jim Elliot, the missionary to South America who was killed by the Auca Indians.

When Julie became a Christian in college, she read Foxe’s book of Martyrs, which tells of people down through history who have been killed only because they would not renounce their faith in Jesus. Although we don’t experience that kind of persecution here in the United States, there are many countries in the world today where followers of Jesus are still murdered only because they are Christians. Many parts of the world are completely antagonistic toward Christianity.

The Bible says that is what we should expect. Why we don’t experience it in the United States, I don’t really understand. I think that we would do well to expect though that in our lifetime we may yet see that kind of persecution in our own country.

But in the meantime, I think it is important to understand that though the word used here for “persecute” certainly includes torture and murder, it is not limited to the most extreme forms of persecution.

diwkw, means “to pursue”, to chase after something or someone. In this context, it is pursuing someone to hunt them, mistreat them or hassle them. While persecution can be torture, it could also be teasing someone, discriminating against someone, or refusing to tolerate them. In Greek, it was used in the legal profession as a technical term which meant “to accuse” someone. The English word means to treat someone in a cruel or unfair way.

This beatitude says that if you are mistreated because you did the right thing, then you are to be congratulated. Your mistreatment is evidence of your citizenship in God’s kingdom.

2 Timothy 3:12 Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

Waiting tables. Serving alcohol. Once I refused to serve a customer because he was drunk. When I went back for a job, my manager wouldn’t hire me. He told me it was because as I Christian I had sometimes refused to serve people alcohol.

1 Peter 3:14, 17 If you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. … [17] It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

Another time, I was specifically asked by my boss to keep my eyes open to see if anyone was taking food from the restaurant. When she asked me if any food had been taken, I told her what had happened. She fired one of my co-workers and that night he came back to the restaurant and threatened to kill me.

If you do the right thing, sometimes you will suffer for it. That’s OK. In fact, congratulations! That’s part of being a citizen in the Kingdom.

Acts 17 tells the story of Paul’s trip to the Greek city of Thessalonica. He was there only three weeks but during that time several people trusted Jesus and formed a church. However, at the end of the three weeks, citizens opposed to Christianity started a riot and arrested some of the new believers, accusing them of treason against Caesar. They were released after posting bond. A few months later, Paul wrote a letter to the newly formed church.

1 Thessalonians 3:2-4 We sent Timothy… to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, [3] so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them.

[4] In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know.

Experiencing persecution for doing the right thing is a normal part of being a follower of Jesus. If you’re lucky enough to be persecuted because of righteousness, congratulations!

Mistreated for Jesus

The ninth and final beatitude is a different, but very similar point.

[Matthew 5:11] "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

Notice the differences between verses 10 and 11. For one thing, the mistreatment has broadened. Verse 10 mentions “persecution”. Verse 11 has a whole menu of mistreatment: insults, persecution, and slander (spreading lies about someone that damages their reputation). We have added to persecution two forms of verbal attack. Insult has the idea of saying something damaging directly to someone. Slander has the idea of saying untrue, smears about you to someone else.

The second difference is a cause of the mistreatment. In verse 10, it is mistreatment because of doing the right thing. But in verse 11, it is mistreatment because of Jesus.

In the same way that a follower of Jesus will imitate Jesus by promoting peace, a citizen of God’s Kingdom will also imitate Jesus in another way. Just as he was mistreated, so will we be mistreated.

John 15:18-21 If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. ... If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. …They will treat you this way because of my name.

But suffering mistreatment because of Jesus is an honor.

1 Peter 4:14-16 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed.

(same word).

About a year ago, the Barna Research Group took a poll in which they asked non-Christians how they felt about certain types of people. The Dallas Morning News reported “Of the 11 people groups whose image was evaluated, evangelicals came in 10th, trailing lesbians and lawyers but beating out prostitutes.” (Bill, if it’s any consolation, lawyers came out more favorable than Republicans.) Barna’s research shows that 22% of non-Christians have a generally favorable impression of evangelicals. About the same amount have a generally unfavorable impression of evangelicals. And more than half are either somewhere in between or they don’t know. The younger and more educated the person, the less likely they were to have a favorable impression of evangelicals.

Barna attributes a lot of this to ignorance. “The survey data suggest that people form impressions of others on the basis of one-dimensional images created and communicated by the mass media. …‘People’s impressions of others are often driven by incomplete, inaccurate or out-of-context information conveyed under the guise of objectivity when, in fact, there is a point-of-view being advanced by the information source.’”

I think we’ve all heard reports on the news or seen characters in a movie that portrayed believers as backward, stupid, gullible, nave, prudish, judgmental, insensitive and cruel. When these insults are not true and they are delivered as a result of our association with Jesus, then we should congratulate ourselves. Because we have just experienced some-thing that characterizes life in God’s kingdom and confirms our citizenship. We live in a world that is becoming increasingly intolerant of anyone who believes in absolute truth and will dare to advocate a moral position. When that behavior is slandered, you are being persecuted for following Jesus. Congratulations!

But you know, one of the problems with this whole thing is that sometimes when Christians are criticized as backward, stupid, gullible, nave, prudish, judgmental, insensitive and cruel, it’s because they are!

Peter goes on in the same passage to say that not all suffering is noble.

[15] If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. [16] However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

Sometimes we suffer because we bring it on ourselves. It makes me cringe when I hear a born again leader in government or a publicly known church leader open their mouths and say backward, stupid, gullible, nave, prudish, judgmental, insensitive and cruel things about other people. That kind of behavior justly brings the ridicule of the world and that is not being persecuted because of doing the right thing or because of having a relationship with Jesus. Again, Peter says,

1 Peter 3:15-16 Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

But do this with gentleness and respect, [16] keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Providing that the insults, the persecution and the slander are really because of Christ and not because we deserve it, this kind of mistreatment is actually cause for celebration: Jesus goes on in verse 12,

[12] Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

If you are being insulted, persecuted or slandered because of Jesus, congratulations! You’re in good company. Many have gone before you who endured the same experiences because they too were following God, trying to do the right thing and proclaiming the message of peace. What awaits both them and us is a great reward: the Kingdom of God.

Hebrews 11 tells the stories of some of these men and women who believed God and suffered for it, looking forward to the reward that awaits them.

Hebrews 11:13-16 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.

And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. [14] People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. …

[16] they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Conclusion

Are you promoting harmony? Are you also being mistreated either because you’re doing right or just because you belong to Jesus?

If so, then congratulations! You are a citizen of the kingdom. Don’t worry. Be happy. Because the kingdom awaits. Your reward is great and it’s worth whatever you have to endure while we’re here on our layover on planet earth.


1 Copyright 2004 by Lewis B. Bell III. This is the edited manuscript of Lesson 3 in the The Kingdom Character series delivered by Chip Bell at Fellowship Bible Church Arapaho in Dallas, TX on February 1, 2004. Anyone is at liberty to use this lesson for educational purposes only, with credit.

Related Topics: Spiritual Life