Mat 5:12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (ESVST)
Why do we read this verse in its negative contrast? What I mean is why do we say that the reward is conditional on the suffering? Here is another question: why do I project the reward to a future time and place? I believe the answer is “because we still have fallen thinking, insist on an Adamic deception and process everything through our forbidden fruit good-bad filters.
The truth is there is no separation from God (heaven and earth and all that dualism stuff). Christ holds all things together and in Him all things were made and have His life in them. Everything is in God. Heaven isn’t confined to the afterlife but is an eternal reality. Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven was within us. So from that perspective what does this verse mean?
What if we read it this way: no matter how bad it is in our physical reality, we are receiving a reward in a heavenly reality? Let me suggest that our “reward” is actually Him. Jesus said we are in Him and Paul said we have already received every heavenly blessing. Even our judgment (which is now and continuous) is to see Him as He really is…which is awesome! Can you see that our reward is to know God? Jesus said our eternal life is to know God. That sounds like a pretty amazing and incomprehensible “reward.”
The Greek word for “reward” can also be translated as acceptance or acquittal? I bet that makes you see this verse differently. Now we can say “no matter how bad it is here, we have acceptance in heaven that is unearthly and immeasurable.” I like that don’t you? I like the idea that no matter what people are saying about me now, God is accepting me. I like that no matter how people reject His goodness He is still good and His goodness is my assurance.
This word can also be translated as “wages.” The first thought I have is the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Each worker was called to work at different times of the day. They all worked different amounts of time. They were all paid the same. (Ooops…pretty strange accounting.) God’s response is He is the owner of the vineyard. It isn’t our place to question His wages. What was the complaint? The ones who worked the most felt it was unfair. When you read about “wages” which one are you? Are you overwhelmed by the generosity and mercy and infinite Grace of God to give us wages we didn’t earn or are you the one who sees suffering as a means to receive something you earned?
Mat 5:46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? (ESVST)
Now can you begin to see how verses like this look different with a new perspective? God isn’t talking about an afterlife payment for a good deed. To “love someone” out of obligation (because He said so) and just being obedient for obedience sake (because I might get smacked) is not love at all. That is called duty. It is hypocrisy and is disgusting and dishonest and pretend and just a bunch of plastic fruit. Keep your fake love in the decorative bowl. Nobody wants it. That is the lukewarm water that Jesus spits out.
Listen, if you really hate people, don’t pretend otherwise. That isn’t the end of the story however. What Jesus reveals to us is “in Him” we don’t have to hate them nor will we want to hate them. In Jesus we don’t despise them. In Jesus we don’t reject them. In Jesus we love them because He loves them and we are joined to Him! The secret to being set free from the hate (or whatever else binds us) is to know His love for us.
This may surprise you but I love ISIS. I hate what they are doing. I want to see a stop to the violence RIGHT NOW, but I don’t hate them. I don’t want to see them burned alive over and over again forever. That is demonic and an expression of a fallen Adam hiding in the bushes. I used to hate that way. I used to despise anyone who wasn’t like me. I used to reject everyone who didn’t agree with me. I actually used to believe that even the Baptists were going to “burn in hell” because they didn’t believe like me. That is how warped my thinking was. That is what religion did to me. Years of indoctrination and dogma and fear “set me straight” so that “I wouldn’t be deceived.” That is what the good-bad does when it knows nothing but fear and insecurity and rejection and data and human wisdom and faith from knowledge. It is what happens to every human when they don’t know the real God. It is what happens to every good-bad judge when they are living outside the triune circle of divine love and unearthly assurance. It is what dead people do when they are trying to create life from themselves instead of living their new creation life. We don’t have to hate. We get to love. We are joined to love.
I don’t know how to begin to explain the mystery of the miraculous change in my own heart. I CAN point you to Jesus. He DOES set us free. He IS our reward.
Now with a new way of seeing this “reward” thing how about these two verses? Can you “see” that they are pointing to the same thing?
Mat 6:2 Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. (ESVST)
2Co 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (ESVST)
The judgment of Jesus is no judgment from Him but a mirror of Him in us. As compared to Jesus where are we? Have we become the love that lives in us or are we still fighting for or independence and hypocrisy? Are we living from the heavenly places or from our own selfishness? Have we become generosity or are we exercising generosity to keep us out of an imaginary hell?
Jn 8:15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. (ESVST)
Jn 12:47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. (ESVST)
When you embrace the love of God you can’t be the same. The finality of the cross is a revelation that wakes us from a blind and stupid and selfish coma. We wake up to see our inclusion and acceptance. We wake up to sonship and adoption. We see our Abba as our friend and loving father. We never again have to live selfish and hypocritical lives. We have been made new. The revelation of Christ IN US changes our thinking by renewing our minds. Our heart which has the law of love written on it awakens to the call of Love. We stop judging and begin living. We stop condemning and start accepting. We stop rejecting and start believing.
Jn 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (ESVST)
We aren’t being saved to heaven but from ourselves. Heaven is saving us. We are in heaven now and are being saved to that reality. We aren’t being saved so we can enter the Kingdom someday. We are being saved into the lifestyle and joy and peace and acceptance of the Kingdom today. Our salvation is no condemnation. Our reward is Jesus. Our reward is “unfair.” Our reward is our certainty in His acceptance of us. Our reward is to live in His presence while living His life in union with Him. It is a slice of Heaven on Earth. Our salvation life is knowing the truth that we already have a reward in Heaven.