Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Great is your reward...

Week 52:

Matthew 5:11-12 11Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

I believe that we are on the cusp of experiencing (and in some ways are currently experiencing) this verse in our culture here in the United States today. More and more haters of Christianity are voicing their sentiment daily on the open waves of the internet and the social media. Through politics, we are seeing a large move away from the traditional family and strong words from those who are for this move. Some of the criticism received from this move angers us a Christians, especially when we experience the insults to our own character as practicing Christians.

I challenge us to welcome that persecution. Jesus tells us in this verse that it will happen and that we are blessed because of it. It is inevitable that there will be opponents to Christ and his teachings. I have heard several times throughout the years through scholars and preachers this concept: One can talk about God in general and not create too much of a controversy. However, start talking about Jesus and people become uncomfortable and at times even defensive and/or hostile. Too many in this world cannot accept that Jesus is the only way to the Father. In short, it is convicting at times and people do not want to be convicted. To be convicted would mean that something is not right and has to be fixed or adjusted. To that person, the only answer is to refute, defend, insult, and persecute.

One area I would like to challenge readers to look into is for all of us to ask, “Why” are we personally invoking this persecution? The “why” is personal and requires some personal reflection. When someone has opposition to me as a Christian is it because of Jesus or because of me representing Jesus poorly? Jesus tells us in this verse that we will face this persecution because of his name. I fully expect this to happen throughout my lifetime as I follow Jesus. However, another side to this coin is…do I use the teachings of Jesus as an oppressive, exclusive “we’re in and they’re out” way of living my life? I have observed that there are some in the world who would be Jesus followers had they not experienced religious people in their life that misrepresented Jesus. I must take each opposing situation and look at my life and decide, “Am I living as Christ would have me live or am I using Christ’s teachings to mask my inconsistent living and hypocrisy?”

So I go back to my original challenge. I need to welcome the persecution. It will be a blessing in one of two ways: One blessing is “great is the reward” because I am being persecuted because I live in the name of Jesus. The other blessing is when I am misrepresenting Jesus and need to make a change in order to reach those who have been wounded by others who have lived in that same misrepresentation. I close with a reminder for myself as to how to live for Jesus from I Peter 2:12 “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (NIV)


1. In what ways have you seen a rise in the persecution of Christians?
2. In what ways has any of this persecution bled over into your life?
3. Explain a time when you were insulted because of your belief in Jesus and reacted in a way where you had forgotten the heart of this verse.
4. Pay attention this week to the general persecution of Christians (or a particular persecution you are enduring) and look at whether that persecution is because of Jesus’ teachings or because of a misrepresentation of Jesus.
5. As you see this going on, what changes need to be made in your life?

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