Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Happy Though Insulted

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.

Matthew 5.11-12a

How Dare We!

My partner is crazy about The Three Stooges. I believe he knows every episode by heart. When we watch them together he’s always ahead of them, laughing giddily before the first pie gets thrown or the punch line lands. His all-time favorite is when a woman turns to Larry and says, “How dare you look like somebody I hate!” Then she slaps the daylights out of him.

How dare you!

First Peter 2.21 informs us we are called to suffer for doing good and should endure it “because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” Following Jesus’s steps, however, sometimes puts us in Larry’s shoes. A glancing resemblance to Christ is enough to set some people off. Without any warning, they’re in our faces, shouting insults and slapping us down with evil lies. How dare we look like Somebody they hate!

Surrounded On All Sides

The more like Jesus we become, the more we can expect this sort of thing to come at us from every direction. His legitimate enemies will have a go. Others who profess indifference to Him and His teaching won’t be too nonchalant to tell us we’re crazy to follow Him. Still others who claim to be His followers will demean us, working overtime to defeat our purpose.

Often it may feel like were surrounded on all sides by hatred. That’s when we need to take a deep breath and listen to our Leader: “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil.” (John 7.7) It’s beyond our capacity to accuse anyone of anything. That’s Jesus’s job. But when guilty people see His presence in us, they get defensive. Unable to pull Jesus down, they settle for putting us down.

A Big Bonus

Nothing should make us happier than catching hell for looking like Jesus. First, it tells us we’re doing a good job. More of Him than us is showing. Second, we don’t take it personally. Third, this frees us to love our persecutors since we’re not who they want to hurt. Their issue is with Jesus.

So we have every right to be happy though insulted. But wait! There’s a big bonus! If we endure these mistaken identity mishaps, Jesus promises we’ll reap eternal rewards. Who wants to lick wounds when there’s so much to be glad about and rejoicing to get done?

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