From that time Jesus began to preach and say,
“Repent [change your inner self — our old way of thinking, regret past sins, live your life in a way that proves repentance; seek God’s purpose for your life], for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17 AMP

“Blessed [comforted by inner peace and God’s love] are those who are persecuted for doing that which is morally right, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].”

“Blessed [morally courageous and spiritually alive with life-joy in God’s goodness] are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil things against you because of [your association with] Me. Be glad and exceedingly joyful, for your reward in heaven is great [absolutely inexhaustible]; for in this same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10-12 AMP

I chose the Amplified Bible because verse 4:17 describes what is meant by repentance. Also the verses in 5:10-12 appear to be a recapitulation of the seven other beatitudes. In Jesus’ description of “Blessed”, there is encouragement for his followers even though he tells them the reality about how they will be treated, as they live differently from the world, as they grow in their relationship with Him.

Dictionary definitions of “persecute” include: harassment, opposition, ill treatment, insults, gossip: behaviors that epitomize what Exodus 20:16 denounces of those who “testify falsely [lie, withhold, or manipulate the truth] against [their] neighbor or (any person)”.

I experienced some of this treatment when, as an orphaned child, I was living with an aunt and uncle here in Denver. My aunt had a lifelong bitter resentment toward her father for a variety of reasons, which included his “churchiness”. I was allowed to go to church, because the neighbors took me, and because my aunt didn’t want to look bad to them. However, she sneered at my “church going” when anything I did didn’t measure up to her idea of what I should be.

She really ramped it up when I, at 13, came home from a summer camp and said that I had given my life to Jesus. In addition to name calling, saying, “you call yourself a Christian,” and picking a fight whenever I was in something special at church (so that she wouldn’t have to go see such a “hypocrite”), she would tell her friends how bad and ungrateful I was. Then, some of them would call me and “rag down on me” about it. That continued until I was an adult and moved away. I don’t pretend that I was a great example of a Christian, but my aunt’s main criticism was that I continued to go to church despite her harassment.

Something Jesus has taught me over the years is that we have a tendency to become like who we love or who we hate — because they control our thinking. The resemblance to them may not look the same, especially if we hate someone, but it still shows.

If we love Jesus and grow in his love and grace by the power of the Holy Spirit, He will make the resemblance to Him show.

I am using the Amplified Bible for the Lord’s prayer, because it has an expanded view of what forgiveness entails.

“Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father, who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors [letting go of both the wrong and the resentment].
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]’
For if you forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others [nurturing your hurt and anger with the result that it interferes with your relationship with God], then your Father will not forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:9-15 AMP

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