Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
I have to smile because today, things lined up again with my time in Scripture. I recently made a new commitment to read through the Bible in a year, using YouVersion’s ESV Study Bible 1-year plan. And this morning, part of my reading was from Luke 6:17-49. I’ve been trying to stick with the New Testament in order for my joy verses, and the next one on the list is Luke 6:23, right in the middle of today’s reading! I did add verse 22 for context.
I am very aware that my on-again, off-again bouts of depression have nothing to do with the misery experienced by the believers Jesus is speaking to in these verses. To date, I don’t believe I have experienced much in the way of persecution for the sake of my faith. But I am aware of it happening throughout the world, and I see a lot of commentary on it through social media. There are a whole lot of folks who are fearing the loss of our religious freedoms in this country, for one reason or another (I choose not to enter those debates). They will argue their points based on the constitution and that’s fine. I also hear and read a lot of arguments based on faith, that we should be able to exercise our faith and have the freedom to do so.
I hope that continues for us in this country, but I’m also increasingly aware that religious freedom, and specifically, Christian freedom, is not a guaranteed thing. I don’t remember anywhere in Scripture reading “You will be beloved in this world because of Christ.” Nope, the closest thing I can think of is the community of believers at the end of Acts 2 “having favor with all the people” (v47). But just two chapters later Peter and John are dragged in front of the leadership of Jerusalem to account for their “crimes.”
What we are promised in Scripture, time and again, is that we will be blessed when (not if) we face persecution because of our faith. Here in Luke, Jesus tells us to rejoice and leap for joy when it happens. Excuse me, what? How can I be joyful when my faith, the center of my being, is being called into question and I am being treated as though I am evil? Because great is my reward in heaven.
One of the biggest lessons for me out of all of the hardships we have lived through is the clear knowledge that this world is NOT my home. I can be comfortable here (though I’m not promised comfort), and I have plenty to do while I’m here, but if my number one priority is enjoying every moment of this life, I’ve missed something. I already know what part of my heavenly reward looks like – the faces of my children. But they are such a small part of that great reward! Meanwhile, I have a calling while I’m in this world, and that calling does not guarantee that my life will be easy or comfortable. It comes with an almost sure promise of being hated by the world.
So while I’m here, I am going to continue to walk the fine line of speaking the truth, in love, and doing my best to show Christ to the world as I live out my faith each day. Lord, help me to rejoice!