“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 (ESV – Read the chapter)
In this world there are two opposing forces. They are not even remotely equal, but opposite, as popular literature and several different religions hold them to be, but they are opposing all the same. There is the world and there is God. If we are received by and accept the reception of one, we will reject the other. As Jesus Himself made plain, we cannot have both. More specifically, if we receive God, the world isn’t going to like us anymore.
Now, this doesn’t mean that as followers of Jesus we should shut ourselves off from the world. How then would we engage it with the Gospel? We are to walk the tightrope line of being in the world yet not of it. That means we are not to be defined by the things that define the world. Pain, fear, hatred, pride, and the like should have no place in our hearts.
Instead, as Jesus said here, it is the world’s rejection that we should count as a point of pride. We shouldn’t seek it out. We must make sure that the world’s hatred comes in spite of our behavior toward it, not because of it, but when it does, we know we’re on the right track. We know we’re on the right track because the world has a long and rich history of aggressively opposing the people of God.
Let’s face it, though: This isn’t easy news to hear. In fact, some professed Jesus followers don’t want to hear it so much that they compromise with the world at the expense of their faith. The fact is, we want the world to like us. And that’s normal. Nobody wants for other people to not like them. Nobody wants to experience rejection and hatred. Nobody wants to have their motives maligned and their reputation smeared unfairly. But the simple truth is, if we follow Jesus consistently we are eventually going to experience those things from the world. We can’t avoid it.
Jesus makes equally clear here, though, that in the face of such persecution, the proper reaction on our part is not sorrow or anger or fear or a return of the world’s hatred or anything else like that. Rather, the proper reaction on our part is rejoicing. We should leap for joy (incidentally, that’s the same Greek word used to describe what John the Baptist did in his mother’s womb when he encountered Jesus for the first time in Mary’s womb). The reason for this is that when the world rejects us like this in spite of our love toward (not for) it, it is a clear indicator that we are on God’s path. And when we are on God’s path the reward ahead of us for sticking with it will more than make up for anything we face along the way.
Now, if you are following Jesus closely and the world is fairly well leaving you alone, don’t go looking for trouble. It’ll find you eventually. But, when that trouble comes—and it will come—don’t worry about it. Rejoice in the face of it. It means you are doing something right. Keep doing it.