Friday, May 6, 2011

Blessed like the other prophets

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so also they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

He transitions by going from the general to the specific. He is talking about who is blessed, including those who are persecuted. And then he re-iterates that one, saying “Blessed are YOU, WHEN they revile and persecute you falsely for my sake.” There’s a lot in here. These are people who have started to follow Jesus, and he wants them to know that they made a good decision, that the way they have chosen will result in them being blessed, but also what that involves. Maybe that is why he started out by, if I’m correct in my metaphor, talking about the ..uh.. new currency of the kingdom. Because they have no idea what to expect at this point, probably. They see Jesus and they like him because he has power to heal and his words tug at their hearts, and they think he is from God and expect good things to come from following him. But they have no idea what they are at this point, I think. So Jesus starts out by redefining good things, so they can understand rightly situations they are in.

And the blessing for the people who follow him….Jesus says, if you follow me, you will be like the prophets. And in Israel, that means something really specific… they are treasured and revered as pretty much no-one else is, as being the direct link between Israel and its God, as guiding Israel in the right way, and basically being the ones who always try to save it from going wrong. They are also almost all persecuted and live miserable lives because people don’t want to hear that God thinks they are going wrong. This is the role Jesus puts the people who follow him in, I think, as a link between God and people, showing them what is right. They will be blessed very greatly, but in the same way the prophets were blessed, which certainly does not include worldly possessions, people liking you, etc.

This interpretation makes sense with the salt and light metaphors. If by following Jesus they are a link between God and people, it means they are…a qualitatively different substance from those around them. Going back to Romans 8 this makes even more sense; as the Holy Spirit works in the person who follows Jesus, they are 1) different because the Holy Spirit is living in them and 2) themselves taking on more and more of the family resemblance. So they are, ideally, like little God-filled particles dispersed in the world, influencing people around him just by nature of what they are. This is why he doesn’t command them to be salt and light, he says they are salt and light.

Though this brings up the question, what if I don’t feel like I am being salt or light, or I see other Christians who are, in my view, actively doing the opposite of God’s will? Do I interpret it that we are not really following Jesus?

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