The right kind of famous

And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “…Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.”
– Luke 6:20, 22-26 NASB

We have a problem, don’t we? We don’t live like we believe these words of Jesus are true — as if we are blessed when men hate us, and ostracize us, and insult us, and scorn our name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. We easily fall into the trap of seeking the approval of men.

Certainly our walk must be blameless…. yet woe to us when all men speak well of us, because that has always been the mark of the false prophet.

The apostle Paul made it a practice to boast only in his weaknesses (shipwrecks, being driven out of cities, stonings, destitution, hunger, nakedness, dangers) — and when to make a point he boasted in his accomplishments, he said he was out of his mind to talk like that.  Yet is that not exactly what we tend to do?

As another example, look how we write a biographical sketch of a respected denominational leader.  Our minds are profoundly accustomed to thinking in terms of “circumcised on the eighth day” rather than “shipwrecked…destitute…naked”, are they not?

I was reading a homily by Fr. William Mouser the other day that brought these things to mind again:

Many years ago, when I was in seminary, we went to Chapel Monday through Friday. As you can imagine, this program chewed through lists of chapel speakers like a weed-eater through dandelions.

What amazed me is this: the chapel speakers were invariably men who had some claim to celebrity. They were pastors who were always famous for something. Well, okay – it’s not that there was a problem with their being famous; rather, it was WHAT they were famous for that discouraged me, and discouraged a great many of my classmates.

What if they had brought us a man to speak in chapel who was famous for being run out of town in tar and feathers? What if they brought us a man to speak in chapel who was famous for having been attacked by mobs of infuriated pagans. What if they brought us a man to speak in chapel who was kicked out of three or four churches in a row because their elder boards refused to accept his preaching against abortion? Or divorce? Or gluttony?

You know, we never heard from guys like that. I know they are out there, for I ran across them from time to time. And, with the internet, I found even more such men – leaders in Christ’s church whom ordinary Christians almost never hear about, because they’re not celebrities, or because they’re famous for getting themselves hated, persecuted, rejected for the sake of the Word of Christ.

Is it not this willingness to suffer humiliation for the sake of the gospel that the hymn writer was speaking of when he wrote:

To that old rugged cross I will ever be true,
its shame and reproach gladly bear;
then he’ll call me some day to my home far away,
where his glory forever I’ll share.

O brothers and sisters, when our boast is in all our accomplishments and how all men speak well of us, let us fear and repent. When others boast this way (how common it is!), let us take warning. And when someone is hated, ostracized, insulted, and scorned as evil for the sake of the Son of Man, let’s not turn away from him too quickly — for these are the marks of the blessed of the Lord.

Father God, let us be found in Christ Jesus our Lord, that we may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death for your Name’s sake — and let us be glad in that day and leap for joy!

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