Disciples are in trouble.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12 ESV)

When I was in college I had an experience where this passage was abused far beyond the limits of what it should ever be intended to mean. I was walking to class one morning, when a group of people were walking around the oak grove with huge signs. Seriously, they had to have special belts that would hold these signs up. The signs said things like "SInners will burn in hell" and "God doesn't approve of your actions" and "God hates the gays". I shuddered even a little bit more when I discovered that their special belts came with holsters for their huge study bibles. This was trouble.

As someone who was considering at that point a career in the ministry, I walked up to one of the women with a sign and I asked her if she thought that her actions were going to be at all effective. Basically I said I thought she was doing a better job of getting people to hate Christians than she was at getting people to be one. In response, she quoted the verse above.

There are really two sides to that verse. To those of us who are in comfortable situations, I think it's a challenge. Can you really live the life Jesus called us to live and be completely comfortable? Or is there are part of the redemptive lifestyle that will always be a little bit uncomfortable? When we're called to be generous (more on this later), can we ever really be comfortable having an abundance? If we worship in a church or a congregation where everybody agrees with us, will we ever grow? The redemptive lifestyle (at least at first) is a little uncomfortable.

But then I go back to that lady in the oak grove. Should we actually be out looking for trouble? Should we be poking people with a stick and then running and hiding behind this verse? I don't think so, and there's one line that gives credibility to that thought: ..."and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely..." Jesus seems to understand that people are going to make stuff up about us. They are going to claim things that simply aren't true about the followers of Jesus. But if people are claiming things that are absolutely true about us, and those things are troublesome, then we need to re-examine our actions.

Yes, disciples will find themselves in trouble from time to time. But that doesn't mean we should go looking for it.

More later today.