Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (vv. 11-12).
Prophets have a difficult task. The message they must deliver comes with the real risk of ridicule, punishment, ostracism, and ongoing struggle that could devastate their lives, or even lead to death. As a student of Scripture, I have repeatedly heard that being the kind of prophet Jesus refers to isn’t a job that most people want or will take on.
Yet when we hear from the prophets in Scripture, we marvel at them. They courageously accept their call and regularly remind their people to return to God’s mission and become instruments of justice in their communities. We have modern-day prophets to marvel at also, as they take on God’s call and struggle for the rights and equality of all God’s children.
Jesus’ promise to reward those who do a prophet’s work is a sign that such a life won’t be easy. Being a disciple of Jesus will have its challenges. People may critically judge our actions, label us and call us names, throw words of hatred our way, and engage in any number of unsavory things. Unfortunately, Christians might be the best at doing this to other Christians.
The Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5–7) guides us along our path of faith. Its simple teachings are challenging to live out, but with prayer, discernment, and a Spirit-filled community, we can gather the courage we need to embody Christ’s message through our actions as well as our words, especially at the times they are needed most.
What encouragements to live a Christlike life strengthen me for the challenging times when I must speak up and act on my faith?
Comfort and challenge us, O God, for those times when we are called to do what is right, even when that is difficult. Amen.