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Rejoice and Be Glad

by Michelle Wilson on July 01, 2022

Dear Friends,

This week, I’ve been meditating on these words:

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

Matthew 5:11-12


One thing I wonder about when I read the words of Jesus is whether followers of Jesus should expect people to like us or to dislike us. In this passage, we’re given the expectation that people will hate us on account of Jesus. But, just a couple of weeks ago, we read in Acts 2 that the believers enjoyed “the favor of all the people,” (Acts 2:47 NIV). So, should we expect favor or persecution? I suspect we should expect some of both. In 1 Cor. 9, Paul says, “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” He goes on to explain that he behaves like a Jew among the Jews and a Gentile among the Gentiles, conforming to the expectations of those around him in order to more effectively share the gospel. He deliberately changed himself, sacrificing his unique heritage and personality, to fit in so that he could make his message more winsome. At the same time, Jesus encourages us here in this passage to be like the prophets, who had the courage to stand against their culture and warn people that God’s judgment would come upon them if they continued to worship idols and disregard the suffering of the poor. Being like the prophets in this way, Jesus tells us, will lead to experiencing blessing in a way that conformity will not. I can only conclude that we must be prepared for both possibilities. We shouldn’t try to be hated. We should try to make ourselves likable as much as possible and expect to find favor with those around us much of the time. But there will be times when it is not possible to stay true to Jesus and continue to be liked by those around us. And when those times come, Jesus promises us that real happiness will be found in staying true to him.

I suspect different aspects of this are harder or easier for each of us. For me, it sounds hard to be like Paul. I tend to be quite individualistic. I like being different and doing my own thing. And being what is expected to gain influence sounds like a big personal sacrifice to me. My husband Jamie tends to be just the opposite. He feels a strong need to be liked. He’s good at being just what he needs to be to win over each person he interacts with. It’s a gift that I sometimes envy. But when the moment comes to go against the grain and experience disapproval, that’s when life in Jesus can be challenging for him. I’m reminded here that each member of the body of Christ has gifts for the building up of the whole body. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and we do better when we both learn from each other and lean on each other.

May God bless us to be both compromising and uncompromising as the Lord requires of us. May we be led by the Spirit so we will know what is required of us in each moment. And may the Spirit strengthen and empower each of us in our weakness and cause us to be strong together in Jesus.

Love in Christ,
Michelle

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