Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
On this Saturday before Palm Sunday, I add an extra devotion to finish up the series
"Life on the Margins."
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.” ~ John 21:15-19
On the west door of Westminster Abbey in London is a group of statues of modern martyrs. These are a group of men and women of the Christian faith who were hated so much by those in power that they were murdered either for their faith or for living out their faith in ways that made those in power nervous. They follow a long tradition of those who died as Christian martyrs - beginning with James, Peter, and Paul and the other disciples.
I can't speak for them. I can't even imagine the courage and conviction they each faced. I've never faced the kind of exclusion and hate or defamation that they faced.
On this last, bonus entry for the woes, instead of you hearing from me, I will let you hear from some of them directly. I encourage you to read about their lives and deaths here: https://www.westminster-abbey.org/about-the-abbey/history/modern-martyrs ) Not all of them have quotes they left behind, but all have stories that bear out the joy offered by Jesus.
For the church, the many abuses of human life, liberty, and dignity are a heartfelt suffering. The church, entrusted with the earth’s glory, believes that in each person is the Creator’s image and that everyone who tramples it offends God. As holy defender of God’s rights and of his images, the church must cry out. It takes as spittle in its face, as lashes on its back, as the cross in its passion, all that human beings suffer, even though they be unbelievers. They suffer as God’s images. There is no dichotomy between man and God’s image. Whoever tortures a human being, whoever abuses a human being, whoever outrages a human being abuses God’s image, and the church takes as its own that cross, that martyrdom. ~ Oscar Romero
Why are we so afraid when we think about death? Death is only dreadful for those who live in dread and fear of it. Death is not wild and terrible, if only we can be still and hold fast to God’s Word. Death is not bitter, if we have not become bitter ourselves. Death is grace, the greatest gift of grace that God gives to people who believe in Him. ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
If physical death is the price that I must pay to free my white brothers and sisters from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
I am prepared to die in the army of Jesus. While the opportunity is there I preach the Gospel with all my might, and my conscience is clear before God that I have not sided with the present Government which is utterly self-seeking. ~ Janani Luwum
The most deadly poison of our time is indifference. And this happen, although the praise of God should know no limits. Let us strive, therefore, to praise Him to the greatest extent of our powers. ~ Maximillian Kolbe
Questions for thought: What can we learn from these martyrs? Who are those today who are excluded or endangered for their faith?
Pray: Ask God for courage in those times when you feel your faith is questioned.
Final Thoughts: What has surprised you most during this series on "Life on the Margins?" In what ways is your life affected by those who are on the margins?