22 ‘Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.
23Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
This may be a bridge too far. I am not sure I can “leap for joy” on the day that people “hate” me, “exclude”, “revile” and “defame” me. How do you sell a program that seems to make a virtue out of being hated, excluded, reviled, and defamed?
Undoubtedly, in the context in which Jesus’ followers would hear these words after his resurrection, such painful circumstances occurred on a regular basis. In its early years, Christian faith divided families, created divisions, and caused persecution. How often must have arisen the pain of hatred, exclusion, reviling, and defaming.
But it is hard to imagine how my faith might cause me to be subject to such painful experiences.
Jesus offers one qualifier that might help with this difficult vision. This hatred, exclusion, reviling, and defaming he predicts are not arbitrary. They do not happen because I am obnoxious, difficult, querulous, narrow-minded, or bigoted. They all come “on account of the Son of Man.”
I have certainly experienced the discomfort of opposition when I believed I was following the direction that beauty and truth were leading. I know what it feels like to be attacked for some action that seemed to me at the time to be in direct faithfulness to the voice of Jesus.
The important question then is how I respond to a negative, even vicious, reaction to some action I take seeking to be faithful to the prompting of love.
Do I lash back? Do I sulk? Do I seek to rally the troops on my side against my attacker?
Or, do I acknowledge my discomfort and allow it to break my heart open more deeply to the presence of love?
When I open to love in the face of opposition, my “reward” is great. I become more deeply conscious of the divine presence in my life. Trust and faith grow in the midst of pain. I am “blessed” in response to the rejection that has arisen on account of the path of love I choose to walk.