Wednesday, October 5, 2011

If You Are Hated, You Might Be On The Right Track (Luke 6:17-26)

A few years back, I watched several minutes of a televised interview with politicians, all of the United States. They were asked tough, pointed questions that could have easily been answered with a yes or no. not one of them offered an easy, understandable response. Skillfully they answered “hot button” questions that they hadn’t been asked, avoiding the simple queries.

One politician was asked, “Is it true that you had an affair?” The candidate fussed with semantics, suggested that the past was past and that he enjoyed the support of his wife, and told that America needed to lower taxes, help the poor, and implement medical coverage for everyone. Did he or didn’t he?

Why didn’t they answer the questions yes or no? One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to answer that. They wanted to address the kinds of topics the public wanted to hear. They only do that by controlling the interview.

The following morning, the city paper gave the interview as little attention as a recycling program. No one expected them to answer the questions. The candidates’ primary aim was to please the audience in hopes that that would translate into votes.

How odd of Jesus, advancing a new kingdom, to say what He said. He didn’t throw out crowd-pleasing tidbits. He talked in puzzling, upsetting, nonsensical ways about pertinent matters. The text, Luke 6:17-26 covers what some call the “Sermon on the Plain.” It has considerable differences with Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. Volumes have been written on these passages given to disciples in the hearing of a larger crowd. Luke 6:22-23 and 26 will serve as a typical example of Jesus’ teaching.

Blessed” refers to the deep, religious joy that is the consequence of one’s participation in the kingdom of God. One doubts the disciples could have imagined the things Jesus said would produce such an experience. Friends of ours who recently returned from a mini-vacation called to say, “Hello!” the first thing out of their mouths was, “You want to know where to go for a great time?” I bit, “Where?” “Sanibell Island” they replied. I expected them to say Hawaii, the Caribbean, or some such exotic place. On the other hand, I would have been floored if they had said, “Go do hard labor in a prison camp. It’s great.”

Jesus was saying things that made no sense. Jesus said one will have joy when one is hated. I wonder how many heard the rest of the story. I can’t think of a soul who enjoys being hated. I can think of a whole flock who would do anything to be loved! I drove past a high school the other morning about 8:30 A.M. as I pulled up to a traffic, I noticed a hew high school students standing in front of the school. One girl has on what appeared to be a cross between a David Bowie suit and a Madonna hairstyle. She looked pitiful and lonely. I wondered if she was saying, “All right, gang, will you love me now?” One will experience joy in the face of overwhelming odds if one is hated for the sake of the Son of Man.

Jesus said one will have joy when, as a result of being hated, one is ostracized. Jewish converts to Christianity had been excommunicated from synagogues and banned by their own blood relatives. Merely confessing Jesus to be Messiah was grounds for ouster (John 9:22). I met a deeply devoted woman who had been a regular church goer for over 20 years in the same church in which she was raised. In her late teen years, she married her childhood sweetheart. They eventually had two children. For reasons I will never know, her spouse abused her, and she finally left him in fear of her life. The church, as she reported it, benched her from ministry since she didn’t have “biblical grounds” for leaving him. She wept openly and told me how she felt, being ostracized from her church family. After some time, she dropped out. Ostracism wasn’t an occasion for joy.

Jesus said one would experience joy when insulted. The crowd must have questioned His sanity! “You will experience joy when you are hissed off the stage and your reputation mocked.” A television program attempted to launch persons into stardom. Serious contenders sang or performed in front of a live audience who had the prerogative to hiss and boo if they didn’t like what they saw or heard. It must be devastating to be mocked and ridiculed right off the stage.

When one is hated, ostracized, insulted, and one’s reputation ruined, take heart if it is for the sake of the Son of Man. If the Son of Man was rejected, those who follow Him can expect the same kind of reception. It did happen (John 16:2), and it will happen again, remember this words,

          They shall ex-communicate you from the church (put you out of the synagogues); yea, the time  cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them.” (John 16:2-4).

Jesus Christ does not give mere lip service to keeping one’s chin up in tough times. He does not stop with positive attitude or a “can do” spirit talk. He says that when folks are persecuted for His name’s sake, they can leap for joy. A commercial jingle went something like this, “I love what you do for me, Toyota!” in the background, a variety of folks were jumping up in the air, kicking their heals.

Even from the lips of Jesus Christ, it is so difficult to understand joy in the face of rejection and abusive treatment. Jesus Christ offered 2 reasons that we could leap:-

2.2.1. Leap because you have a heavenly reward in store:- Jesus was saying, “Discipleship is not one grand picnic, but when times are tough, know that there is a final chapter about which your persecutors do not know.” Talk of immorality was not household conversation. Many of the crowd did not believe in the resurrection. So His talk of heaven was one more confusing part.

2.2.2. Leap because you are being linked with the prophets who were mistreated and persecuted too:- The messengers were hated because of the message.

Who does not want to have a good reputation? Who does not give himself diligently to shaping and managing perceptions to insure that a reputation gained is a reputation kept? Jesus Christ was quick to say, though, that Joe Public spoke well of false prophets. If you want to be like the truth-telling prophets and the Son of Man, expect to be hated. Since one may compare with a false prophet, it helps to know if that is a compliment or an insult. The scene of the false prophets or false believers :-

3.1. They were a problem in Jesus’ day (Matt.7:15-23).
3.2. They were a problem in Paul’s ministry (Acts 13:6), but frequently had amazing popularity with the masses.
3.3. They had a string of undesirable predecessors who drew crowds by hitting the buttons and telling the crowds what they wanted to hear-
       (1). “Speak to us pleasant words, prophecy illusions” (Isaiah 30:10).
       (2). “The prophets prophecy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority, and My people love it so!” (Jeremiah 5:31).
3.4. False prophets or false believers still abound.
I heard a TV evangelist preaching that God wants His children to be affluent. He pitched Scripture out of context. In so doing, he set the stage for those who believe and will send a promise (offering) to mark their commitment to trusting Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ’s message is sobering. The media says of a well-known pastor, “He is thought highly of and is well respected throughout the world as a religious leader.” I wonder if that is a compliment or an insult. I wonder about pastors who grave unanimously votes of confidence from the congregations they serve. Is not there something about the nature of the gospel that invites crucifixion? What does the message say of any who follow Jesus? Those who live a truly holy life will conflict with the values of the ungodly and the would be godly who want a modified Gospel?

Jesus Christ forces His hearers to think. This Kingdom of which He talked was not a mildly different political agenda that would please the ears of the undecided. No. On the contrary. If the agenda is preached and heard and lived, one might be hated. To the extent that you are hated for His name’s sake, be glad and leap for joy!


“May, O God, Your Spirit bear witness with our spirit, that we are indeed Your children. May we reflect the joy of knowing that we are Yours, creatures, servants, sons and daughters.

For things carelessly said and things thoughtlessly done, for things that should have been carefully said, and things that should have been carefully done, for labour and leisure that was to be done as unto You.

For witness and service poorly done, grant us forgiveness. For unkindnesses and meanness of spirit, grant us forgiveness and grace that we might be forgiving and gracious.

For mercy, grace, and forgiveness received, we give hearty thanks.

May we sing and pray, hear and heed as children of the Most High. Your blessing we need and seek, for it we ask in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.”



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