Back from some wonderful time away on vacation and back to reading and writing. Today's readings pick up on the theme of the church being disliked, disdained, and hated by the world. In Luke's record of the Beatitudes, Jesus teaches, "Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you, insult you, and slander your name as evil because of the Son of Man...[but] Woe to you when all people speak well of you, for this is the way their ancestors used to treat the false prophets" (Luke 6.22, 26 CSB). Obviously, this blessing and curse apply to those acting and Christ acted--in mercy, love, and grace--and not themselves acting out of hatred, self-righteousness, or evil. But like Esau traded his birthright for something earthly and fleeting, so the church is too often tempted to trade the riches we have in Christ for the fleeting approval of the world.
For some reason, though, we (i.e. the church in contemporary America) still think everyone will reciprocate God's love with appreciation, affection, and praise. Seriously? Do we not pay attention to the culture around us? The only way to earn its adulation is to become like it--and if we do that in our present-day culture, we will have certainly ceased to follow Jesus and be the church. Our society hates the idea that we are all sinners in need of redemption. Our culture despises the idea of some external authority with the 'audacity' to judge its selfishness, hypocrisy, lust, murder, etc. for what it is.
Let us take find our identity, confidence, and assurance in Christ. As our Old Testament reading this morning reminds us:
But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch them.
In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died,
and their departure was thought to be an affliction,
and their going from us to be their destruction;
but they are at peace.
For though in the sight of men they were punished,
their hope is full of immortality...
Those who trust in him will understand truth,
and the faithful will abide with him in love,
because grace and mercy are upon his elect,
and he watches over his holy ones.
-- Wisdom 3.1-4, 9 RSVCE