Saturday, March 16, 2013

Bearing His Reproach

We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. (Hebrews 13:10-13, NKJV).

He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (Isaiah 53:3, NKJV).

If you have never been despised as a Christian, then you have either remained silent about Jesus, live in a cloister, or have lived your life of faith in such a way that there is no discernible difference between you and the world.

This is true because the unbelieving world hates Christ. He said it would and it does. Now this does not mean that it happens 24/7, or that the intensity of contempt is unbearable, or that the hostility is always overt, but it does mean that you can be certain you are not as accepted in the world as you might have been before becoming a follower of Jesus. And those who are most contemptuous may be in your own family, or even members of your own household. It happens. It is supposed to happen.

I am not speaking of the contempt you may receive for being obnoxious, or bitter, or unkind, or boastful, or demonstrating any number of other common and pervasive human failings. That's your doing. No, the reproach mentioned in the verse above is solely due to Christ being pure and beautiful and majestic and good, and you being His follower with His Spirit within you. This is true because the world is evil and hateful in its horrid rebellion against God. It hates everything about God (the true God of the Bible), and everything about you, because you are His.

If this hasn't been your experience, then maybe you are not being attentive. Or maybe you should examine yourself as to whether or not you are in the faith.

Open your eyes and ears, and if you are concerned about your popularity and acceptance, prepare for being crushed. In other parts of the world, Christians are beaten and imprisoned and killed. If, in the West, you are being sneered at, or spoken against, or mocked, count your blessings. It could be much worse.

However, it does hurt. It hurts when family turns against you. It hurts when you are excluded or spoken of behind your back. It hurts when you suffer public humiliation. It hurts when, through no fault or action of your own, your are despised and rejected.

But know this, you are in good company, for:

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11, 12, NKJV).

This equation is what makes Christians an unbeatable force for good in the world. We are never commanded to do violence, but to love and speak the truth. We are never commanded to exact revenge, but to leave vengeance to the Lord. We are never commanded to return evil for evil, but the opposite. And when all of this evokes even more intense hatred from the world, well, that is to be expected, for this world is not our home. We are citizens of Heaven.

How then are we to react to the enmity of the world? Simply put, like Christ.

When reviled He did not revile in return.

He forgive those who drove the nails through His hands and feet, and lifted Him on the Cross to suffer excruciating death.

He loved the unlovable, and forgave the unforgivable, and He did so with the complete assurance that such was His Father's will.

At the same time, He was fierce in His condemnation of evil. He overturned the tables and cages in the Temple and drove out the profiteers with a whip of cords. He called those who were falsely religious hypocrites and vipers. And He did not hesitate to stand for what is right and good. Even His mother and siblings thought He was crazy.

He is our example and He never compromised for the sake of not making waves. His entire earthly ministry was a gigantic tsunami, and He knew it would end in persecution and death, but He did it anyway.

His motivation was filial obedience and love.

So to bear His reproach means that we should expect the same. While there will be some who see Christ in us and are converted and become members of our eternal family (closer and far more loyal than blood relations), there will be others who will hate us passionately, and will overlook no opportunity to disparage us and cause us pain.

Even among our own family and friends.

But in the end, none of that matters, for the only thing of importance is Christ within us, the hope of glory.

His warnings to us should be heeded. We should expect betrayal and contempt. It happened to Him. It will happen to us. That is what He meant by counting the cost. To ignore the warnings is to be blind-sided by the attacks that will come.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58, NKJV).