“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).
In all honesty, I don’t really like these two verses. I would much rather Jesus have said something like, “Blessed are you when people compliment you, flatter you, and tell you what great blogs you write and how spiritual you are.” I am not much for being insulted or persecuted or slandered. Probably not many people are. In fact, I would go so far as to say no one apart from the indwelling Spirit of God would count being insulted as a blessing. No one.
But if I am not ashamed of the gospel and proclaim it as the very power of God unleashed in the world, then I will face all these things. If I stand up and say that Jesus is the ONLY way, the ONLY truth and the ONLY life, I will be mocked, ridiculed, called all sorts of names, and ostracized. The sad part is that if I truly am radical about my faith, I will be insulted and persecuted and slandered by those in the Church who go by the name Christian.
I love the Message version: “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.”
When the truth is too close for comfort, people get uncomfortable. They react. Whether they are openly opposed to God or just those who want heaven, but not Jesus, they will lash out when someone threatens their pseudo-security. God also responds; God knows what you have done and will reward you. I’ve said this before, but the best possible reward is not anything God gives you, but God Himself. He is our great Reward, our great Inheritance. I think Francis Chan said that the great news of the Gospel is that you get God. All of God.
Lord, I don’t want to be a Christian who gets along with everyone and never causes trouble or stirs up dissention. I want to be a fork in the road, so that when people come up to me, they must choose to go one way or another to get by me– either toward or away from Christ. Hide me behind the cross, so that if there be anything offensive about me, it would be what the Greeks saw as foolishness and the Jews saw as a stumbling block– namely, Christ crucified. Jesus, get me out of the way so that You can get in the way of every single person I meet.
As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.