Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Blessed are those who are persecuted

Years (and years and years) ago, when I was in high school, I rode the bus home each evening. There was a guy who also rode the bus – the kind of guy who some would describe as a guy who “ran with a rough crowd.” Even though he was always nice to me, he intimidated me. All that said, he usually struck up a conversation with me as we rode home. One evening, he asked, “You’re a Christian, aren’t you?”

I never did answer him. I wasn’t sure what his response would be, so I just avoided answering the question. That’s the only time in my life that I have ever been asked that question – that directly. I have always regretted that I didn’t say, “Yes, I am.” I’ve always felt that it was a betrayal in some ways, and now I see it as a missed opportunity.

The last beatitude is this:

‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:10-12 (NRSV)
How often do we take the easy way out? Are there days when you should speak up for your faith, but you choose not to? I know that I do that. The early Christians were persecuted, in every horrible sense of the word, for their belief in Jesus Christ. I think there are times that I avoid speaking up, answering with a strong, “Yes, I am a Christian” because it might make me uncomfortable or place me in an awkward position.

I’m still thinking about the cross issue that I wrote about yesterday. As I was looking around on the web yesterday, I was reminded of a woman who works for British Airways. She has refused to remove her cross during work hours, stating that employees of other religions are allowed to wear symbols of their faith, and yet she is not. I don’t know the ins and outs of this issue, but I can see that she is taking a stand.

Do we take a stand? Do we risk persecution – even in a very mild form – for our faith? Do we risk disapproval, laughter or ridicule in order to advance the kingdom?

There are times when I will slip a cross on a chain under my shirt because I think its blatant presence causes another person to be uncomfortable. I don’t think that action is wrong, and I will continue to do it when I feel the need. I think in that case, the action is loving, not a denial of my faith. It is, at that time, an expression of my faith.

What I am trying to say is that our actions – whatever they may be – and our words, even when they are unpopular, need to match our faith. Sometimes living the life of a Christian, claiming to be a Christian, involves risk. It might make us uncomfortable, unpopular or unloved, but that might be the price we have to pay to avoid being unloving.

"You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom. Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don't like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble." Matthew 5:10-12 (The Message)
The end of Buechner’s Beatitude Essay:

Jesus saved for last the ones who side with heaven even when any fool can see it’s the losing side and all you get for your pains is pain. Looking into the faces of his listeners, he speaks to them directly for the first time. “Blessed are you,” he says.

You can see them looking back at him. They’re not what you’d call a high-class crowd – peasants and fisherfolk for the most part, on the shabby side, not all that bright. It doesn’t look as if there’s a hero among them. They have their jaws set. Their brows are furrowed with concentration.

They are blessed when they are worked over and cursed out on his account, he tells them. It is not his hard times to come but theirs he is concerned with, speaking out of his own meekness and mercy, the purity of his own heart
Image: Leaves at the VA
Sidenote: A friend's daughter needs prayer (and that's a hyperlink)


Blogger Linda said...

My first Friendship Bible Coffee was led by a wonderful Christian friend who offered this bit of advice...You'll never win anyone to Christ by hitting them over the head with your Bible. Never let your faith, or symbols of your faith get in God's way to reveal His love to someone. Try to remember to be transparent, like a window, allowing His Light to shine through you.

PS - Thanks for the note for K - we are blessed by your prayers and friendship

1:41 PM  

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