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September 23, 2018, 12:00 AM

Persecuted like a Prophet


Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you... I am not feeling like being persecuted today, maybe tomorrow will be different. Oh and about the utterance of all kinds of evil against me falsely... that also is something I can do without. And, have you ever thought about a passage like the one that says, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” and thought, “but I want it now.” and little consolation is it that “they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” I don't want to take comfort in knowing that they have been persecuting people like me since the beginning of time and what kind of people are those but people who simple tell the truth, people who do the right thing, people who try to be kind. Why I ask you do they persecute the prophets? Why does the world prosecute the truth tellers? Why does the world work so hard against those who simply want to be kind?

In my experience it is really very simple. In my experience those who tell the truth and I am not talking about those who harshly tell everyone every detail, but instead those who refuse to speak lies and embellish and make things more than they are. Those people who tell the truth bring a kind of judgment on those who don't. Yes, simply in you being who you are and in the fact that we (ever since eating a piece of fruit in a garden all those thousands of years ago) have the knowledge of good and evil or if you prefer because we have the ability to discern right from wrong, people who are not truth tellers experience a kind of judgment on their actions when they are around people who are truth tellers.

Likewise, I think that those who are kind and gentle are truly challenging to a world which values strength, courage and tends toward brash. I have witnessed on a number of occasions when I chose not to react to someone who is behaving aggressively, especially when that aggression is designed to move me to a different belief or action, I have experienced them becoming more aggressive as they try harder and harder and harder to get me to become like they are. And then, if you hold your ground, they get to a point where they have blown themselves out, they may turn and walk away or they may suddenly become calm and have the ability to speak and work through the problem to a mutually acceptable solution. First however, they have to try and get you to become like they are and that means puffing up and becoming more aggressive, because if you become aggressive in return, you validate their way of being and who does not want their way of being validated.

We were not put on this earth to validate the other person. We, as Christians, are told not to conform to this world. We as Christians are asked to behave and act according to the teachings of Jesus, whether or not those around us choose to do the same.

We have an example of this in our first lesson today. Joseph, whose brothers were so jealous that they sold him into slavery, now finds himself in Egypt. Joseph remains loyal to God and the ways of God and even those around him understand that he is blessed. So, he ends up as overseer of much of the household, he was a trusted servant. He was apparently also a rather handsome servant we come to find out and Pharaoh's wife fancied a roll in the hay with him.

Pharaoh's wife we read came on to him pretty directly. Joseph being a person of honor and integrity said no, because he was a person of  integrity and lived by the rules God had laid out for his people. Joseph did the right thing by the person he was serving, even as slave in the house. God honored that in Joseph. God honored his right behavior and Joseph stuck to his guns. Eventually, the wife traps him. We are not given all the details but my imagination says she was coming on to him and he realized that this would not end well if he stayed in the room. It really did not matter whether he slept with her or not, if he stayed in the room it was a problem, so he left with “all due haste.” In his haste to leave she apparently had her hands on his clothes and so the garment got left behind.

Next we see that Joseph finds himself in jail. He is never given opportunity to defend himself. Pharaoh's wife seems to suffer no ill consequences for her actions. And again is that not all to often the truth, when you suffer for being a person of truth and integrity, the other does not suffer any consequence. You suffer some negative, often less than jail but either way you do the right thing and someone else traps you, thus you suffer a consequence that is not truly just and they suffer no consequence at all. So, Joseph finds himself in jail and sets about doing what he always does, being a person of integrity and honor, doing what he knows is right, and this gives him favor in the sight of God and thus he prospers within that environment.

I want to be really clear here because this is not the truth we want, but in my experience, it is often how things work. A faithful person, who maintains their honor and integrity throughout the situation, does well within the situation. It may not however get us removed from the situation. Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, Joseph set about to do the right things, it did not make him any the less a slave, no he is still a slave instead of the free man he was. Within the environment of slavery Joseph thrived as much as a slave can. Then in a moment of, the world against Joseph, even as he tries to do the right thing, he ends up in jail. We read nothing to indicate that he got out of jail, no he is in jail and within that environment he flourished. Within the environment he found himself he did right, he maintained honor and integrity and that did not remove him to a new better place but instead it made the place he found himself in a better place.

We are told in our gospel lesson that we may well do like Joseph and say and do the right things but not be honored for it. We may we be a person of truth and integrity and find ourselves persecuted. We will do the right things because they are the right things and that may not move us to a new estate. We may not suddenly find that we are being moved from the situation that we don't want to be in. We may continue to find ourselves needing to work within the situation we really want leave. We may continue to find ourselves in a place, which we associate with persecution, but within that environment we will find ourselves flourishing. I read this morning the account of the man who bought the London Bridge and moved it to Arizona. He took a piece of desert and a small lake and worked with it to make it something anazing. Now it sees millions of tourists every year. He certainly had a flock of naysayers who thought this was a kooky idea but he made it work. I am sure that early on Einstein had people around him say there is no way that energy or light if you prefer and matter are related and yet we know now they are. The church persecuted many of the early scientists like Galileo, Copernicus and Darwin, who we now know were right but they were not doing what those around them wanted them to do, they were doing what was right and the world had to start by trying to drag them back to where they, the world, were.

So, no I don't want to be persecuted and reviled but if that is the price I pay for sticking to what I know is right then so be it. If it gets me reduced to a lower estate, I know that God will help me to flourish within that state. It is some comfort to know that through the course of history, being a person of honor, and integrity, being a person who sticks to what is right, has been a persecuted position. So, while I may not want to, I will take solace in knowing that I am right with God. And thus I want to encourage you to continue in the right even when it is difficult. I want you to encourage you to make the most of the situation you are in, whether God moves you to a different one or not. I want to encourage you like the Gospel writer would, to keep up the good fight, knowing that God will bless you for it.


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