Meditate on This!
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10
For the Romans, it would have been unimaginable that the cross would be a revered symbol. The cross was an instrument of death devised to bring intense suffering, shame, and humiliation. It was designed to frighten criminals, put slaves in their place, and intimidate enemies. And yet it became the dominant symbol of Christianity because it speaks of the risk Jesus was willing to take for love. It points to the price he was willing to pay for peace. It lays out the lengths he was willing to go for forgiveness and the sacrifice he was willing to make for mercy and the death he was willing to die to defeat sin and death and bring hope and healing.
And Jesus makes it known that if you want to be his follower, you have a cross to carry as well. Your life will be marked by radical love, regular service, and risks of being taken advantage of and taken for granted. Offering mercy when you feel tapped out on compassion is not always easy. Don’t be surprised if your efforts towards justice are resisted. Don’t be shocked if your peacemaking work receives push back.
Truth be told, sometimes the pushback is internal. We become our own worst enemies, struggling to live the self-denying life. We become our own worst critics, letting guilt leave us doubting God’s grace. Sometimes the pushback is intramural, not so friendly fire among the faithful who neglect to bring peacemaking into the pews. And sometimes it’s from a world resistant to change. To stand up for and with the poor, for example, exposes deep places of greed. To stand in solidarity with the powerless threatens power structures.
Jesus never hides that working for God’s shalom, righteousness, justice, and equality can be costly. His promise is that it is worth the cost. Great is our reward.