2004-10-09 - Good Company
Luke 6:22-23 "Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and cast insults at you, and spurn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. 23 "Be glad in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. (NAS)
On September 17th, 2004, Barry Bonds joined a very select group of men who had hit 700 career home runs in more than a century of Major League Baseball. Only two others arrived here ahead of him - the legendary players Babe Ruth (714) and Henry Aaron (755). Even most people who don't follow baseball know of these two men. The day will probably come when Barry Bonds is as well known. From the perspective of Major League Baseball, is standing in very good company.
Now this passage cited above is one of those verses that is a little more difficult to digest than the ones with the promises of crowns, eternity with Jesus and streets of gold. The draw of those passages is easy to see. Most people don't enjoy being hated or deliberately left out or insulted. This is especially so when the abuse is unmerited.
The key of these verses is the phrase "for the sake of the Son of Man". Jesus never promised us a rose garden. Most of us have been picked on because of our faith. Some have suffered being passed over for an award or promotion, or even a job opportunity. While those things are truly unfair, they are the tip of the iceberg of suffering. In the old Soviet Union, the suffering endured by Christians who were caught by the state was horrific. It cost many their eyesight, health, the ability to walk or talk; and for some the cost was their mortal lives. Some of the same horrors are being reported in Sudan today. America is not immune to this kind of bigotry and hate.
While what happens to these people who bear the name of Christ is inhuman and intolerable, they too are in very good company from and eternal perspective. Jesus points to the prophets of the Old Testament as examples of those who suffered for the Lord. Jesus' disciples, who were surely present, also suffered indignity and death in some cases, were victors over the world. To be included in the company of the prophets and the disciples is an amazing thought - suffering for the sake of the Son of Man.
In Acts chapter four, Peter and John are commanded not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. They answered that they could not stop speaking about the things they had seen and heard. The message of the gospel was precious enough to them that the suffering of this world could not compare to the joy of knowing that their Lord and Messiah had come and was touching and changing lives through them. They were honored to be permitted to suffer for the gospel and for the sake of the Son of Man.
It was the gospel that was hated. It was Jesus they wanted to ostracize, not Peter and John. Remember that when men curse you, and say all manner of things against you falsely, for Jesus' sake.
Lord Jesus - it is so easy to feel bad for ourselves when we suffer indignity for our faith in You. Keep us mindful that our suffering has a purpose and our reaction may touch the lives of those around us, for the sake of the Son of Man. Amen.
Grace & Peace,