You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom. 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.
Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we're not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don't maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don't twist God's Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God. (Matthew 5:10-12; 2 Corinthians 4:1-2, The Message)
I would wager there was a time in your life when you really wanted to be part of a certain group. Whatever they did, whoever they were was something appealing to you, if only for the briefest of times. In the end, it may have even been the exclusivity that drew you far more than any other element of that group. You just wanted to be part of the "in" crowd. Nothing else would do.
I've been part of groups where admittance was only by audition or invitation. If the groups were "legitimate" ones (meaning not in existence just for the sake of their own exclusivity and the demeaning of others who were not a part of their special circle), there is a sense of pride and satisfaction that comes with being "in". The call from the choir director asking you to bring your voice to the group. The letter from that particular school announcing your admission. The call from across the room leading to a conversation telling you that you are now part of some fraternity or group.
God also has an "in" crowd, though most of us might not think of it that way. Both Matthew and Paul, in writing the passages here, speak of it very specific terms. This last grouping from the Beatitudes in Matthew tells us of the blessing that is to come because we are persecuted for our participation in what God calls "right". It draws us deeper into the Kingdom life and way of thinking, calling us to speak up even when it makes others uncomfortable. It calls us into the company of great saints from ages past who have "always gotten into this kind of trouble" and tells us that the very hosts of Heaven cry out in rejoicing when it happens. In fact, we should be expecting persecution to be the "baseline" of our existence. After all, if we are projecting God's light into a dark world, they most likely won't be very happy about it. Much to the contrary, they will fight us and even curse us because of what we represent.
And then there is Paul's perspective on it as he writes to the Corinthian church. He notes that God, in His generosity, has included us in His plan and supports us in a way that we don't have to worry about growing faint of body or heart. We are invited to be open, honest, and sincere as we call out God's message of love that leads others to Kingdom living. We don't lose heart or threaten to "walk off the job" either. Instead, we drop our masks, cease playing games, and represent God as He truly is! We reflect the Truth without twisting the message.
There is a catch, however. Living this kind of life consistently will put us in a position to be persecuted. And, while that really doesn't sound appealing to my human side, God has promised both in these verses and throughout His story that living that kind of life is the one that leads to His blessing ... both now and forever. The Crooked Path is just that ... crooked! And it is crooked by design so that I will stop worrying about it and look to the One who sustains me and orders my steps. He has included me with His "in" crowd and I should do everything I can to show others just how great that experience really is. In doing so, I don't respond in fear of possible persecution; I respond in love and service to God and those around me.
- So, what have you done in your life lately that might be worthy of bringing you persecution? And odd question, but isn't that what we are supposed to be doing?
- Are you longing to belong "somewhere"? Have you considered that God has an "in" crowd made up of some pretty spectacular servants?
- Are you willing to drop your mask, stop playing games, and be an honest reflection of the Savior you claim to serve? Wouldn't life be far less stressful if that's the way we lived it?