Blessed are the Insulted

By Published on May 28, 2023

”You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12

Longing for “The Promised Land”

One of the reasons the Beatitudes have been difficult for me to grasp is because I continue to be committed to the poor theological idea that if I do what God wants me to do, life will work out mostly how I want it to. For those of us who are disappointed because we are still struggling or aching despite our acts of service and moral choices, we may be coming by our discouragement honestly. The Old Testament is filled with images of God blessing committed people with lush and tangible gifts like flowing milk and honey, plump grapes, fine wheat, and rich wine. It’s why we still talk about getting into “the promised land” after desert seasons of lost jobs, or hard marriages, or lonely singleness, or aching childlessness.

A Thread Being Woven From the Past to the Future

But notice Jesus’ mention of the suffering prophets. They were spoken against and falsely accused and, worst of all, rejected not only by their enemies but also by their own people. The prophets were often in trouble for speaking God’s saving truth to a people who didn’t want to hear it. Ezekiel had to preach to Israel even after God said they would patently reject his message. A youth group shouted insults at Elisha and called him bald (little did they know how fashionable this would be one day). A king burned Jeremiah’s scrolls, and eventually he was thrown into a cistern. The prophets had it hard, but they were God’s beloved instruments.

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Jesus gave His words about persecution while the curtain was closing on the Old Testament prophets and a new one was opening up on His followers who would ultimately form His church. Yes, Jesus was announcing a brand-new kingdom, a new way to live in community with others and Himself, and a new way to be human with soft hearts made malleable by His Spirit. But a thread from the past was being woven into the future — like the prophets who suffered for living out loud for the righteousness and justice of God, so Jesus’ disciples would also encounter rejection, insults, even unspeakable persecutions at times. Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood this. He died in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany, having declared, “Suffering, then is the badge of true discipleship.”

Turbulence is Part of the Territory

This doesn’t mean we’re to race out and try to bring suffering upon ourselves. The reality is that being a Christ follower will naturally bring opposition. Trying to avoid it is like trying to pilot a plane without turbulence — it’s part of the territory. So, if you’re declaring Jesus as the one and only Savior of this world, if you treasure what He values — morally, ethically, materially — if you love God fully and your neighbor sacrificially, and if those things bring persecution upon you, Jesus says, celebrate! You’ve hit turbulence, which can only mean one thing: you’re flying in the kingdom. Your path will not be obstacle free, but you’re in the same lane as the prophets. You’re in the best company, right in line with the heroes of the faith who came before you. And what’s more, your reward is unimaginable, preserved for you in heaven.

I don’t know what turbulence you’ve hit. I don’t know what choices you’ve made on account of Jesus that have cost you. The rejection may feel like more than your heart can bear. But Jesus promises that when we suffer because of Him we have cause for rejoicing. Great is your reward to come. And great is your comfort and consolation now, for you are following in the footsteps of the prophets but also in the ones of the ultimate Prophet, your Savior, Jesus.

 

Kelly Minter appears this Wednesday on LIFE TODAY. Excerpted from The Blessed Life by Kelly Minter. Copyright ©2023 by Kelly Minter. Published by B&H Publishing. Used by permission.

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