Does anybody else remember sending notes like this to a classmate you were ‘sweet’ on in elementary school? I guess Valentine’s Day this past weekend brought back some OLD memories. Ha!
Do you like to be liked? I know I do.
In fact, I used to like being liked so much that I spent decades doing whatever it took to be sure everybody liked me. The problem came when I would have to be essentially two different people in order to please two different friends.
To say it caused a lot of internal stress is definitely an understatement. I realized that I probably wasn’t going to have a happy, fulfilling life if I chose to keep living that way. And I finally figured out that I only had to live my life to please ONE person.
I learned that God is the only ONE I need to live my life for.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t other people I need to love and respect and obey and honor and take care of and even rescue, if necessary. (See Ex. 20:12; Eph. 2:6; Eph. 5:25; James 1:27; Ps. 82:4; I Pet. 2:17.)
But my main priority is to be my relationship with God. As a result of making that my #1 focus, I will finally be able to love myself and then, in turn, be able to love other people. (See Matthew 22:37-40.)
However, according to today’s verses, that still doesn’t mean things are always going to be rosy.
In fact, being a God follower can get you into serious trouble in some areas of the world. And, unfortunately, those arenas are becoming more and more vocal and active.
In the next few verses in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us some encouragement. Well, first He tells us the truth and then He gives us some encouragement for those times we have to live in this truth.
Here’s what it says in Matthew 5:10-12, NIV:
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Now first let me say this. These verses aren’t giving us permission to pick a fight or be obnoxious or just be plain out rude to people we don’t agree with. The only people Jesus ever came close to getting rude with were the religious leaders who were making a mockery of His Father’s House.
These verses are talking about us being in a right relationship with God and, when necessary, standing up for what is right in God’s eyes, instead of caving to man’s opinions. It’s talking about being persecuted because we’re not ashamed to be affiliated with Jesus or for doing what He says is right.
The bad news is that if we do that, some people may insult us, some may persecute us, and some may even tell lies about us that, in certain places in the world, could get us . . . well, dead.
The good news Jesus gives us is that when these things happen to us,
(1) we are blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of your outward conditions),
(2) we are fulfilling our assignment from God to expand the kingdom of heaven into our corner of the earth, and
(3) our reward in heaven is going to be awesome. Not to mention we’ll be in good company with God’s prophets who were also mistreated.
Check out what II Chronicles 36:16 (referenced in today’s verses in the Amplified Bible) says about this mistreatment of God’s prophets.
“But they kept mocking the messengers of God and despising His words and scoffing at His prophets till the wrath of the Lord rose against His people, till there was no remedy or healing.”
This verse isn’t talking about the world mocking God’s messengers and despising His words and scoffing at His prophets. It’s talking about the Israelites. Which makes me think the same can be true today.
Believers can also mock God’s messengers, possibly when they’re “different” than they’re used to hearing from. And we might even despise His words when they make us uncomfortable or aren’t socially and politically acceptable. And some believers may scoff at God’s prophets that He still sends to His people today—if that method of God speaking to us doesn’t fit in our denomination’s mindset.
So while it sounds easy on paper—just follow God and do what He says is right—the choices we may have to make in the near future—or choices you’ve possibly already made—could have side effects that can’t be altered. Some friends and family may shun you. Some people who stand up for what is right may lose their job or career. And in some situations, it has already cost people their lives—starting way back in the Old Testament and continuing to today.
But the other choice (spelled out in the II Chronicles verse) sounds even worse to me. Choosing to NOT listen to what God is saying to us can cause the Lord to be against us. And that’s definitely NOT something I want.
Whew! Following God is not for people pleasers or sissies.
So I’ve changed my mind. I like you. But it really doesn’t matter if you like me or not. I need to focus on God and what He’s saying to me. Then when I do what’s right, He’s more than capable of taking care of any fallout.