Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Luke 6:22 (NIV)
Tell me the first word that you think of when I say, “poor, hungry, weeping, excluded, insulted, and rejected.” Did anyone say “blessed?” If you did, it is because you have been through this exercise before. This is another example of how radically different Jesus’ teaching was compared to his contemporaries and how different it remains today. To understand his message, we need to start with relearning some things.
The world in Jesus’ time was not so different from ours when people thought about what it meant to be “blessed” by God. They believed “bless” meant “good stuff.” If someone had good stuff, good things, a pleasant existence, they were blessed by God. If not, they must have done something wrong and God passed them by when He came around with the stuff wagon. There are many times that the disciples expressed that feeling to Jesus, and his response was, essentially, “Guys, that’s not how it works.”
It’s easy for us to get our eye on the “wrong ball” when we talk about spiritual things. We live in a physical world and we are “tuned” to respond to physical things. Our tendency to focus on the physical world is a problem, though, if the physical world makes us forget that the spiritual world is the real and eternal world. Jesus’s message is that the physical world and its rules and laws won’t last forever. In fact, believers are already citizens of the eternal world and we need to begin learning the new language and customs apply there.
There is stuff in heaven, or in the new world, but the stuff there is different. In the spiritual world, we understand that all the stuff belongs to God, because He made it. Even though all the stuff belongs to God, he shares it freely with us, because he also made us and loves us. More important than the stuff though, it that, in heaven, we are always in God’s presence. We know Him and experience Him directly. We always know and experience His favor.
Let’s take this context and go back to today’s verse.
Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.”
Jesus is telling his disciples, including us, that when we experience poverty, hunger, sorrow, exclusion and rejection because we believe in him, we will also experience God’s presence in a different way. Jesus promises that, as the world rejects us, heaven embraces us.
How does this look for modern believers here in America? Most of us are not suffering hunger, sorrow, exclusion or rejection because of the gospel, at least not in the sense that we see in other parts of the world where believers are persecuted for their faith. Here, we may experience a subtler exclusion or rejection because of our faith. The principle still applies. As we seek the spiritual world, we will experience losses in the physical world. We will also experience God’s blessing and know His presence. Watch for it this week.