Recently, my life has been an interesting juxtaposition between seeing fruit and answered prayers along with rejection by some who are dear to me. It’s a reminder to me that following Jesus isn’t supposed to always feel good. Lately, these words of Christ have been resounding in my head:

22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
    when they exclude you and insult you
    and reject your name as evil,
        because of the Son of Man. (emphasis mine)

Honestly, I don’t feel very blessed. The painful irony of following Christ is that he calls us to love others and then he tells us that they will hurt us. How much easier it would be if we were called to a solitary life or to a life spent “winning friends and influencing people”! Instead, we’re called to pull toward us any who profess Christ and include them in our family. He wants this from us because we grow as a part of a family.
Friendships and institutions don’t grow us because those relationships are voluntary. If their perceived benefit to us lags behind their cost, we can just dump them or look for another context in which to be affirmed. So, there is among friendships and within institutions an unspoken expectation of mutual pandering. We gravitate toward those who will scratch our backs.
Family presumes unconditional loyalty and selfless concern. Our family will scratch our back when we need it but they will also tell us when our itching is unhealthy. We can grow if we’ll hear what they are telling us. This is the church as God intended. “Speaking the truth in love, we will grow up into him in all things.” -Eph. 4:16
That’s the ideal but the reality is that many who we love will reject us for our honest words. Our temptation in those moments will be to resort to the mutual pandering that works so well for the hypocritical liars of the world. Christ won’t allow for it, though. Instead, he gives us this seemingly impossible command:
“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. Luke 6:23 NIV
Relationships are a win win for the kingdom. They can be a taste of heaven making us long for more. They can also cause us to look forward to the end of this regime at the restoration of all things.
I know this post has been heavy, so I leave you with this lighthearted song from Rich Mullins:

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