Blessed are you when men hate you,
And when they exclude you,
And revile you, and cast out your name as evil,
For the Son of Man’s sake.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!
For indeed your reward is great in heaven,
For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.
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Compared to what Christians around the world experience—and sufffer—it’s hard to call our little rejections ”persecution.” Yet this verse applies to those moments as well. We do not belong here, and every time the world reminds us of that fact, it’s a cause for joy. Our home is elsewhere.
“Fine. How are you today?”
“I’m good.” I assume it will end there; if often does. I’m tired from my workout at the Y and she seems tired of her task. Usually, when two tired people face each other over a conveyor belt of groceries, they both absorb themselves in making sure the food gets in the bag. But I tilt my wallet the wrong way and send change skittering all over the conveyor belt and check-writing counter and floor. It opens her.
“Oh, boy,” she says. “I’m having a day like that too.” She scoops up the change she can reach and hands it to me. The shopper behind me clears her side of the floor and hands me a couple of quarters and a dime. Now we three are friends.
“Have you had a bad day?” I ask.
“Yeah.” She accepts the $20 I hand her and turns to the cash register. “Nothin’s gone right today. And it all started with this nut this morning. I see this guy comin’ down the main aisle, right? And I can tell he’s furious about something and I’m just hoping like crazy he’ll keep walking, but no … he walks right up to me.” She pulls out a couple of one dollar bills and hands them to me, along with a bit more change for my wallet.
“What was he so mad about?” the woman behind me asks.
The checker scoffs. “Easter.”
I laugh. “What’s to be mad about Easter?”
She shakes her head. “He’s got a greeting card in his hand and he goes, ‘How come this is the only Easter card in the whole store that mentions God?'”
The woman behind me makes a disgusted sound and shakes her head. But my heart convulses. I need a second to think. I have a choice. I can stick up for the checker, or I can stick up for the brother. Yes, he’d gone about it wrong. But I understand.
I’m tired of thievery. I’m sick of watching the world steal slow, incremental pieces of our memorial observances until they have enough pieces to form the day into their own. Santa kicked the baby Jesus to the curb and turned His manger into a sleigh. The Easter bunny climbed the cross and nailed a big pastel sign on top: Let’s celebrate sugar! And we’re supposed to not mind. We’re supposed to smile kindly and scoot over and not say a word.
I’ll try to make it up to the woman. I will. I’ll choose her check-out line, every time, no matter the wait. I’ll be pleasant. I’ll show her Jesus. But right now, I have to side with the brother.
“Well, it’s just that …” I begin, as quietly and gently as I can muster, “Jesus is the reason for the celebration.”
The checker looks at me and I can tell our conversation is over. Sure enough, she ignores the script. “Thank you,” I say as I take my bag from her. She’s suppose to say, “Have a nice day.” But she doesn’t. Instead, she and the silent woman behind me are staring at the floor.
By the time I walk ten feet and look over my shoulder, they’ve started in together. I see them leaning in toward each other, mouths flapping, and I have no doubt they’re talking about the nut who just left.
I don’t belong here. And I’m okay with that.
”But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned … But we have the mind of Christ.” — 1 Cor 2:14-15 (NKJ)