Tuesday, August 9, 2016

9 August 2016

“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 5:11-12 (NRSV)

“Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.” 1 Peter 2:12-13 (NRSV)

            Good Tuesday afternoon. Today we will consider the final Beatitude. Verse 10 warns us of persecution; verse 11 shows us what that persecution might look like. We will be reviled; we will be relentlessly pursued; we will be falsely accused of all manner of things. We will also be blessed in this life for standing with Jesus and rewarded in the next. We are in good company; there is, as we have repeatedly seen, a long tradition of opposition to God and to all who speak His words in His name.
            Up to this point we have been considering how we might demonstrate the Kingdom presence in our day to day lives. Jesus is warning us-when we properly search out and understand God’s point of view-as best as He allows-we can expect to receive some flack. The opposition will attempt to discredit us by any and every means necessary. 1 Peter 3:15-17, Titus 2:7-8, and similar verses are critical here. We may be personally attacked for our faith-this can be a truly frightening experience. We do not need to provide the enemy with any more ammunition than he already has.
            We must also remember the qualifier “on my account”.  We are asking God to reveal His will to us, not seeking His blessing for our plans no matter how well-intentioned they may be. This is key. We are seeking friendship with God; learning to abide in Him and allowing the Spirit to produce fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. These things and the convictions that accompany them will be uncomfortable for those who only know about God; they will be frightening to those who do not know Him at all. We are experiencing hardship for Jesus’ sake-sharing in His suffering that we may also share in His glory.
            But Jesus also promises His blessing to those who experience persecution. The word has the sense of happiness, of being enlarged by God, of being in the enviable position of receiving His benefits. I believe these blessings come to us in the here and now. Jesus tells us “my peace I give you” (John 14:27). Paul echoes these words, as a promised answer to prayer in Philippians 4:7 “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”. Friendship with God-standing firmly with Him on the side of justice-is its own reward. Stubbornly clinging to our idea of what it means to be a Christian-which may or may not be correct-is not.
            Jesus also promises great rewards in heaven. The obvious implication here is that heaven is real and we will be with our Lord there eventually. By the way, have you considered this-if we do not enjoy being in God’s presence now, how can we expect to enjoy His presence then? Eternity is a very long time. Back to the point-reward seems to also imply status of some sort; various positions, maybe even a hierarchy. I do not think we will be lying around on the clouds playing our harps in ecstasy. We will have work to do-perhaps we will be given back the original garden. Paul saw it and said the human heart cannot conceive what God has prepared. And again, as the catechism says-we are about glorifying God and enjoying Him forever. This is our acid test, for persecution and for everything else-is our behavior glorifying God?
            Tomorrow we will do a little summary; Thursday we move on. I sincerely hope God touches you in some small way here and that I am not leading any of you down the wrong path. We need Kingdom People now more than ever.
May the Lord bless you and keep you this day. JRG


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