10 “Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
11 “Happy are you when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me. 12 Be full of joy and be glad, because you have a great reward in heaven. In the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you.
Today’s text is the end of the Beatitudes portion of the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus completes His thought with what almost feels like a warning. The basic idea is that living the life God calls us to: loving our neighbor (and our enemies), centering our lives around God and not possessions, giving and forgiving in ways that only God’s guidance can help us do – does not mean everyone’s going to like it.
I once heard it said, “People don’t like when you create boundaries when they benefited off your not having boundaries.” People can often benefit off of us overextending ourselves or justifying bad behavior, so when we decide to make steps to be more righteous, more of a Christ-follower, more centered by God’s grace – those who benefitted off of us won’t like that. They may harass us, or insult us, or speak all kinds of bad or false things about us.
It can be hard to imagine being happy amidst such hurt, especially at the hands of our loved ones. Jesus compares this to the harassment many of the prophets experienced – and some prophets were far happier than others. But it’s such an interesting comparison, because all the prophets experienced difficulty in their calling, yet some seemed to find a joy that others could not. Jonah seemed to never find any moments of joy, but maybe he could have. Not that his work would have been any easier – it was difficult work – but that much of his unhappiness was in fighting a calling God had for him.
All of this is to say is that proclaiming our faith and following God is tough work and people may not like it. But happiness and blessings can be found if we’ll only let it.
by Rachel Callender
For Pondering & Prayer
Have you experienced pushback or criticism for your faith? How did that feel? Where was God in the midst of that?
Prayer: Redeeming Lord, sharing Your Word and living the life of following Christ as You taught us is not always easy – in fact, it’s often hard. May we sense Your encouragement, Your Spirit, and Your grace. Amen.