“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Matthew 5:11-12 (NIV)
In the United States, Christians throw around the term “persecution” far too lightly. It is a sacred word, dripping with the blood of the martyrs, and when we toss the term out nonchalantly, we cheapen it. This is why the Beatitude is clear: the blessing is only for those who are mistreated “because of me.” We’re not talking about a negative reaction from others that we’ve merited because of our own silly behavior in the name of Christ, such as the Florida pastor who in April 2012 threatened to burn the Koran. He should have been censored. That’s not persecution; that’s public accountability.
But let’s not be naive. The drift of Western culture on multiple fronts is such that those who resist the tide, however quietly, will necessarily stand out. As a preacher rightly pointed out: “We’re upstream Christians in a downstream world.”
There are dangers in group psychology when those who before were culturally dominant become a cultural minority. This seems to be the moment we’re living in, both in the United Kingdom and the United States. The knee-jerk reaction for the believer can be to withdraw from broader society, like a turtle who – when you poke his head with a stick – draws back into his shell. But how can we be salt and light if we remove our loving influence at the very time when it’s most needed?
A second reaction is anger, a temptation to lash out at those we perceive as marginalizing us. This may show up on FaceBook as angry status updates or bitter criticisms of politicians. Time to add a new verse to the children’s song: “Oh, be careful little fingers what you type!”
A superior path is the path of righteousness. Want to rebel? Be holy! By doggedly modeling the values of love and integrity, no matter what, we can make a difference. Rather than disengaging, our commitment – in obedience to the Great Commandments to love God and neighbor- must be to re-engage our culture. Because the stereotype is that Christians are brittle and hateful, we must go the second mile to show that the stereotype is just plain wrong.
A good example of this was Sandra Bullock, the actor who played the mom in the 2009 film, The Blind Side. She turned down the role three times, fearing it was just another example of Christians grandstanding about good deeds, while on-the-side living low-down like too many others. But after she met the real-life Christian family behind the film and spent extended time with them, she concluded: “I finally met people who walk the walk.”
When “everyone else is doing it,” when Christianity has been compromised, it’s time we put a little rebellion in the mix. Follower of Jesus, are you ready for some righteous rebellion?
“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God remold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.” – Romans 12:2, J.B. Phililips paraphrase
Let’s rebel against the low road, whether it’s the low road of non-believers or Christians who don’t act like it. It’s time to take our faith to the next level. It’s time for some holy rebellion. Are you ready to be a righteous rebel?
Photo credit: Blue Cheddar