I’ve been reading through the Gospels in The Message. I love how Peterson’s translation reorients me to the surprise of Jesus’ words, particularly this passage:
Luke 6: 22-23
“Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—skip like a lamb, if you like!—for even though they don’t like it, I do . . . and all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company; my preachers and witnesses have always been treated like this.
The verses remind me to write/speak/live for an Audience of One, for the applause of heaven. The closer we get to writing the truth, living the truth, and acting as agents of truth in a lie-happy world, the more detractors we’ll have.
I remember a particular detractor recently. Words came from nowhere–harsh, slicing, painful. I took them in, swallowed them, digested them. Let them poison me and make me afraid to write. But mostly the words made me afraid to be myself.
As God graciously delivered me from that relationship, He helped me realize that sometimes there are enemies out there looking a lot like companions. That we should be careful. But that we should also rejoice because often times those harsh words mean we’re doing something right.
(Aside: Every person who shares something hard with me has dignity, and it’s up to me to take in what every person says, weigh it in light of Jesus, and apply it to my life. In a rare instance, a friend’s words don’t resonate. But mostly they do. Please don’t take this as a post about disregarding critics. You grow the most when you listen and heed your critics. I’m talking here about overtly harsh and underhanded critics.)
Here’s a verse that keeps me humble and a bit scared: Luke 6:26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” I do love for everyone to love me. (And I’m guessing you feel the same at times). But if we’re truly living for Jesus, we will have enemies. Remember this equally convicting verse: 2 Timothy 3:12 “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
Notice that? WILL BE. If you’re not suffering persecution, at least in some form or another, perhaps you’re no threat to the powers of darkness. Perhaps you’ve (me included) chosen a safe, risk-free, I-want-everyone-to-like-me faith.
Oh to be risky! To risk reputation, standing, stature for the sake of the applause of heaven rather than the arena of man! Oh to trust God enough with my reputation, to let Him manage it. Oh to embrace the words He speaks over me, to sift through the criticism in a godly manner, to rejoice when I suffer persecution for His sake. Oh to be all these things.
The detractor I mentioned above? One of the most beautiful things has happened as a result of that fragmented relationship. It opened the door to new and different friendships I’d never had if I hadn’t met that person in the first place. It helps me see that God is sovereign even over the pain, over the caustic words, over the broken relationship. Because from that, He birthed new friendships. What a cool, amazing, surprising God we serve!