Despite losing their appeal – Ashers, the Christian bakery company, are blessed. They were appealing against a court ruling that they discriminated. This relates to refusing to produce a cake with a slogan promoting same-sex marriage. The decision is a serious infringement of civil liberty, compelling people against their beliefs. But there are other matters to bear in mind also. The name Asher is actually Hebrew for “Blessed” or “Happy”. This reminds us of Christ’s words: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake”.
“We’re being told we have to promote a message even if it’s against our conscience” (Daniel McArthur). This case is about punishing those who refuse to support same-sex marriage. That is a serious step: it is the force of civil law being used to persecute. Many will suffer if this ruling is sustained in law in a way more serious than merely being pilloried by public opinion. There has been of course public vilification for this couple in standing firm. “We have been called bigots and it seems to be at the minute that if you disagree politely with gay marriage then you are named as a bigot or a homophobe” (Amy McArthur). Their shop in in central Belfast has suffered some minor acts of vandalism since the case came to light but the company has not suffered financially. Daniel McArthur has said: “And I would say to other Christians facing pressure at work or in public life: don’t be afraid to take your Christian stand because we’ve learned God is with you in all of it and he gives you the grace to stand against these trials and challenges.” They may have to pay £88,000 in legal costs.
David Dickson comments on the final beatitudes of Matthew 5:10-12. He says that the “eighth mark of a true discipline is suffering persecution for righteousness’ sake”. Such are blessed. But these are the blessings that few really want. The following points are extracted and updated from his commentary on Matthew.
- Blessed are any who are troubled and persecuted by men in following Christ and for doing that which God approves. Those who choose rather to suffer affliction than to commit sin are indeed blessed, for “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake”.
- Let persecutors do their utmost to rob the godly of all that they have, yet they cannot rob them of heaven, for it is said that “the kingdom of heaven” is theirs. Even if they were banished out of their native country and utterly spoiled, or indeed killed. Heaven belongs to them by Christ’s conquest and by God’s promise. It shall certainly be given to them to make up for all their losses.
- Reviling or speaking any manner of evil against Christ’s servants is, in our Lord’s estimation, persecution. Thus He expounds being persecuted further, saying, “when men revile you and persecute you”.
- Christians must beware that they only give just grounds for facing trouble. It is not persecution when evil is spoken against men truly and justly but when evil is spoken against them falsely, and for Christ’s￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼ cause. Therefore Christ says that they are blessed “when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake”.
- Notwithstanding whatever persecution occurs, the troubled and persecuted servant of Christ still remains blessed “when men…persecute you”.
- Our Lord will not be content for His servants in persecution do bear themselves with a heavy spirit. He will have them bear their cross joyfully. He does not want the courage, comfort or countenance of His children beaten down while they bear His glorious cross. He will have them to be cheerful: “Rejoice and be exceeding glad”, He says.
- Although their suffering cannot merit any thing, yet it will be rewarded graciously. “Great is your reward”, says our Lord.
- Whatever consolation God gives to his suffering servants in this world, which indeed is not small (for they have more peace and joy in themselves from God, and more estimation among the saints, than all their trouble is worth) yet he will not reckon this for a reward till he have them up in heaven, for he has said, Great is your reward in heaven.
- The light affliction of this life cannot be compared with that which will be given in heaven. He says therefore: “Great is your reward”.
- Whoever endures any trouble (even if it is only evil words for Christ’s cause) he will be enrolled among the martyrs and holy prophets who from the beginning of the world have suffered for righteousness. This is our Lord’s reckoning, saying, “For so persecuted they the prophets which were before you”.