Last weekend we were wrapping up the Beatitudes as the introduction to Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. It ends with a statement of blessing over those that have experienced persecution as a result of following Jesus. While our study is taking us through Matthew, Luke captured this telling of the description of persecution:
22 “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! 23 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)
What stood out to me in a palpable way was the inclusion of exclusion. Blessed are you when people exclude you…
We all know how that feels. I don’t think any child can escape the moment when they are excluded from a group they thought were their friends. We’ve also likely all been picked last as teams were made for the kickball game at recess or some other event which was both embarrassing and hurtful.
As a parent, there is a hurtful rage when our child finds out everyone was invited to a friend’s birthday party but our child and we watch the hurt wash over them as they realize that life sometimes hurts really bad.
As we get older, we probably have worked with a group that liked to go out together after work but somehow we were never invited to join them.
In recent times it seems that if we don’t check off all of the political boxes, some friends start backing away and if we have a difference of opinion on how to navigate a pandemic, we all of the sudden find ourselves excluded again.
Exclusion is such a harsh punishment because it denies us the very thing that is hardwired into humanity…the desire to be part of a community with others.
Of course, Jesus knew that exclusion was a regular weapon of broken humanity and he wasn’t just saying that being excluded is a blessing, in general.
Jesus was talking about being excluded because of Him. When we see the world differently and our former friends walk away from us, we are still blessed because the Kingdom is here and it is available to us. When we pursue a different way of life than just living “our own truth”, we are blessed because that different way of life is powerful and life giving even if that means people you love walk away from you.
This idea of exclusion, though, messes with me in other ways, too. Who have I excluded? For whom have I fundamentally removed the invitation for community?
I think it’s important not to ignore the blessings of being excluded because we have found something better that the world rejects. I also think it’s important to ask ourselves who we need to include, ourselves.
As we seek to become more like Christ, may we include others in this beautiful journey that He has called us to.