Another Word…by Gus Keiser

July 10, 2017

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

                                                                                                                        Matthew 5: 10-12


 That’s the warning that should precede this passage from Matthew’s gospel. This is, without question, a dangerous passage.  The reason for the warning is that it’s far easier to misunderstand and misuse this teaching from our Lord than to take it to heart as is the intent of this word of encouragement.

The key word here is “persecute”, and the possibility of abusing it. Within the Christian community there are those strident voices that are quick to point out instances where they see “the Christian faith under attack”.  They range from those who are concerned over the color of Starbuck’s coffee cups, to selling a wedding cake to a gay couple, to what health insurance covers, to how astronomy and archeology are taught in schools; all voices that claim they are being “persecuted for their faith.”

I’d like to let those folks in on a little secret here…These “things” ain’t persecution.

Real persecution is what happens when you’re a Christian in some remote corner of the world where, every day, you risk being killed for your faith. Where your faith means you forfeit opportunities for education or advancing in your job…that’s real persecution.  And these kinds of things happen to Christians, every day.  But to these truly persecuted Christians come these hope-filled words from Jesus…”Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

 In a similar vein, just because you believe that people “revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you” doesn’t mean that you’re right and their wrong.  It’s those next words from Jesus’ mouth that matter… “falsely on my account.” The word “humility” needs to be given some consideration here.  Humility means that, should we come across people who treat us in this way; we need to take a moment to wonder whether or not they just may have a point.

It’s become a cliché in our world because it’s true…life’s hard and nowhere in anything he has said does Jesus promise that he’s going to make life easy for those who surrender their lives to his will and who rest on his promises.

There’s a long line of people who have been rejected and abused because of their singular focus on what it means to live in God’s will in the face of a world bent on “doing its own thing,” and Jesus is standing right there at the head of the line. In this “very dangerous passage,” Jesus welcomes us into that long line with the promise that the built in reward in all of this isn’t going to be earthly success or popularity, but instead the simple promise of God’s constant presence in  our lives, putting us in very good company.

Loving God, keep us ever mindful of just what it means for us, on a daily basis, to stand up for what we believe to be true, loving, helpful, and just…even in the face of the harshest criticism, rejection, or cruelty. And Lord, guard us against thinking ourselves victims by giving us the humility to recognize where we might be wrong.  In the name of your loving Son… Amen.

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