We recently looked at the call to “hunger and thirst for justice”. What happens when we do? Sometimes, we see change – and sometimes we don’t. And sometimes, we’re called all kinds of things for our beliefs. “Lefties”, “hippies”, “do gooders”, “liberals”, “liberal cucks” (thanks, Steve Bannon, for that particularly delightful term). Even if some of us may not identify with any of those labels – they are often applied.
Jesus has something to say about this:
“Rich are those who are constantly mistreated because of their pursuit of justice, for theirs is the way of God. Rich are you when others are abusive toward you and mistreat you and say evil lies to you because of me. Be ecstatic and be glad! For your spiritual reward is great. The prophets who came before you had the same treatment. 1
That’s a lot to take in, so let’s take it piece by piece:
- … theirs is the way of God. Yet again2, Jesus ties the pursuit of justice to the “Way” of God – the peace of “how things should be”. In other words, “keep up the good work!” But how does being mistreated make us rich? I’ve always struggled with this – but I think it’s getting at two things: firstly, that it’s character forming; and secondly, that it’s often a sign of doing the right thing and of jealousy, insecurity or ignorance on the part of the oppressor.
- “be ecstatic and be glad” I’ve tried to find a way to approximate the jargon of “Rejoice” because it sounds overly religious to me. Rejoicing doesn’t involve anything churchy, it just means to be full of joy.
- “Your spiritual reward is great”. I’ve added in the word spiritual there. Jesus would never have used it because Everything is Spiritual3, but, the original text says something like “your reward in heaven”. Which is confusing because heaven is not a place4 – but what Jesus is getting at is that your “reward” isn’t financial – but something beyond that, something deeper.
- As a final note, “Prophets” in case you’ve not come across that term before, a prophet was someone who was believed to have word from God for the people. They were often highly critical of society for its shortcomings.
The Good News
Sometimes it’s hard taking the criticism, but what we can be sure of is that it’s worth it – both for those whom we seek justice, but also that we will experience a sense of reward. I’m none the wiser as to what that reward is, but I’m sure up for it!
It can be easy to give up, especially when people are rude, unkind, or even bullies because of what you believe or what you do. Try and think of this teaching when you feel that way.
The word “mistreated” above is actually “persecuted”. But I hate that word because it’s usually used by religious folk who want to wear a cross on their uniform or refuse to sell a cake to two men who love one another. It’s better used to describe followers of Jesus in countries where they are surveilled, tortured and or killed because of what they believe and who they aim to be like. Think of them the next time you experience “persecution”, and pray for them!