Friday, March 30, 2012

blessed are you...

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!  Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. (Luke 6:22-23)

I don’t guess I’d really ever thought about it before.  I’m sure the word was in there, but for some reason or another it never caught my attention like it did this time.  I mean this passage is always a challenge to read, because it significantly upends and upsets so many of our typical ways of thinking, and being, and seeing—our most comfortable patterns of living and believing.  Maybe in the past I was too consumed by how far I seemed to be from any healthy sense of even wanting to be poor—or hungry, or weeping, or hated—to ever see this little word.  But there it was, right in verse 22…exclude.

I don’t guess I had ever really thought about the spiritual value of being excluded; probably because I was too busy working hard at making sure I never was.  But when you stop for a minute to really think about it, being excluded—just like being poor, hungry, weeping or hated—produces spiritual fruit within us that nothing else can quite produce, fruit that eventually makes us more like Jesus.  In fact, if you plant excluded in the soil of your soul, what is it most likely to produce?  Maybe the first thing to poke its head through the soil is a deep sense of humility.  There is something very humbling, even humiliating, about being excluded; something that lowers you, makes you smaller, takes you down into the dirt—which is exactly what the word actually means.  This humility then can lead us to a true dependence on God’s Spirit.  In a world where self-reliance and independence are encouraged, it can be easy to overlook the spiritual value of dependence.  To be dependent is to allow something else—something outside ourselves (God)—to be the main source of our value and worth; to give us our true sense of identity.  This dependence (on God rather than self, or others) can result in us being able to live our lives in a more detached way; a way of living that is not as affected by all of the voices and people and things in the world that tend to try and define us.  This detachment, in turn, leads to a true sense of freedom—freedom from needing people to define or determine us, freedom that allows a true lessening of the false self, in order to discover our truest self—our identity in Christ.  It is a freedom that makes space within us for God to work.  It is a freedom that ultimately allows us to really love others, rather than cling to them out of a demanding neediness.   Hmmm…so that’s humility, dependence, detachment, freedom, a lessening of self, and making space for God.  Sounds more and more like what Jesus had in mind.  As a matter of fact, it sounds more and more like Jesus himself.  So maybe, from now on, I need to not allow myself to get so out of sorts (sad, mad, frustrated, and feeling sorry for myself) when I feel excluded.  Because maybe, just maybe, excluded has a work to do in me.  Maybe excluded is something to embrace rather than something to run from or fight against.  Maybe excluded is something that will actually grow the very things within me that will make me more like Jesus himself.  Maybe that's why when Jesus uses the word exclude he also uses the words Blessed are you.  Who would’ve imagined…only God…Thanks be to Him!!!



Then he spoke:
“You're blessed when you've lost it all.  God's kingdom is there for the finding.
You're blessed when you're ravenously hungry.  Then you're ready for the Messianic meal.
You're blessed when the tears flow freely.  Joy comes with the morning."
     "Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—skip like a lamb, if you like!—for even though they don't like it, I do . . . and all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company; my preachers and witnesses have always been treated like this.”

But it's trouble ahead if you think you have it made.  What you have is all you'll ever get. And it's trouble ahead if you're satisfied with yourself.  Your self will not satisfy you for long.
And it's trouble ahead if you think life's all fun and games.  There's suffering to be met, and you're going to meet it.  There's trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests—look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.” (Luke 6:20-26 The Message)

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