"Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the son of man." (Luke 6:22)Jesus' disciples have chosen to sacrifice being appreciated and respected by others for the sake of following their teacher Jesus. Because Jesus was rejected by the mainstream sectarian Jewish teachers and their respective followers and organizations, Jesus' disciples were rejected by others. They were, as Jesus states, excluded, insulted and rejected.
But because they accepted this hardship in order to follow Jesus, Jesus says clearly that "your reward is in heaven." What does this mean?
Earthly versus heavenly rewardsJesus is explaining the heavenly reward for loving and serving God - joy. This juxtaposes with the earthly reward of gaining the respect of others on earth.
We find these sorts of groups all around us today. There are church groups, temple groups, environmentalist groups, community groups, nationalist groups, political groups and many others.
The supposed earthly reward is being accepted: acceptance into a group or society. It takes hard work to fit in. And fitting in means a reward of acceptance.
Fitting in with a group or society is important to us because being accepted by others is confused with being loved. We each need love. We each want to be loved.
Such a mutual acceptance means that while acceptance is sought to satisfy our insecurities, our seeking acceptance is sought by members of the group to satisfy their insecurities. In other words, they need us as much as we need them.
The problem is that physical groups or societies cannot truly satisfy insecurity. That is because insecurity is only satisfied by unconditional spiritual love.
The heavenly reward is unconditional spiritual love
Jesus is teaching that living our life for the Supreme Being gives us a real reward: Unconditional spiritual love. Unlike group acceptance, this is completely satisfying.
The unconditional spiritual love provided by God also satisfies all of our insecurities. This is why Jesus and Jesus' students could weather through the abuse of those around them.
Spiritual love cannot be found through materialism or from fitting in with a physical group. Even if it is a church or sect or other supposedly religious groups.
The reward for living one's life for the Supreme Being and His representatives is beyond the range of the physical body or a physical group of people.
A person who lives their life for the Supreme Being will still have to contend with aging, disease and the death of their physical body. But those who live for the Supreme Being begin to re-establish our original loving relationship with God. This relationship gives us the unconditional spiritual love we each seek as eternal spirit-persons.
Loving God satisfies insecurity
A loving relationship with the Supreme Being gives us the security that we each inherently need. None of us - despite the teachings of so many that claim we are God - can control our environment or the world around us. We need help from someone who is in control. This is the Supreme Being.
This relationship - regardless of whether it occurs when we are in the physical body or after the death of the body - is spiritual. It is not of the physical world. We may express this relationship in our physical lives, but the relationship itself is spiritual.
This is what Jesus means when he says their reward is in heaven. It is not as if his students all have to wait until their bodies die and they go to heaven. Or that they will need to wait until Jesus' "second coming," as many sectarian teachers proclaim. They - and each of us - can partake of a spiritual reward right here and now. Regardless of what church, temple or other club we may belong to.
How can we do that? By partaking of the instructions of God's representative, Jesus. By focusing our lives on the Supreme Being in practical ways. This means sincere and humble prayer, praising God and His Holy Names with song and chant, offering gifts to God, and spending time studying scripture.
All of these methods can be done in the privacy of our own homes, away from the groups, clubs and churches, or within groups - assuming the group shares God being the center of focus.
Regardless, we can reject being accepted by any group and just focus our attention on the Supreme Being, and this will allow us to begin to partake in our original relationship with the Supreme Being - our heavenly reward.
Jesus compares himself and students with the prophets
The second thing that Jesus' statement above communicates is that Jesus compares himself and his followers to the prophets and their followers. "For that is how their fathers treated the prophets" clearly indicates that in the same way those sectarian Jewish temple teachers and their followers were rejecting Jesus and his followers, the prophets before Jesus were also being rejected by sectarian followers of ancient times.
This gives us a clearer picture of not only how Jesus saw himself, but also that the prophets of the Old Testament were doing the same thing as Jesus was - teaching love for God to their own students, while being rejected by the masses.
Despite the sectarian teaching that the purpose of the prophets' teachings were to foretell Jesus' coming, Jesus saw himself as following in the footsteps of the prophets before him. This also means Jesus' teachings also reflected the teachings of the prophets.
This is consistent with scripture. If we read the Old Testament without the interpretation by sectarian teachers, we can clearly see that each of the prophets was teaching love for God. Each was teaching us to hold on to and re-develop our relationship with the Supreme Being.
And this is what Jesus was teaching.
We can also see that Jesus had a great respect and appreciation for the prophets before him. Not only did he quote them often, but he renders his admiration for them in this statement above: "Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets." (Luke 6:23)
This means that Jesus' students should be thankful not only because their reward is in heaven: But they are following in the footsteps of those who followed the prophets before Jesus - those who also were rejected by others in order to follow God's representative. Jesus also did this, as he rejected his local temple and went to the desert to hear from and become baptized by John the Baptist.
This indicates a pattern. The pattern is that the masses may follow the teachings of sectarian teachers who may mislead them, while only a few will reject these institutions and find those who truly represent the Supreme Being and the true message of the prophets and Jesus.
Why is this? Why do so many follow these giant religious institutions who mislead others? Why do so many people follow institutions with histories of child molestation and other violent activities in centuries past?
Running from God, then using God
Because the physical world is the place God set up where one can get away from the Supreme Being.
We have come here because most of us do not want to really worship God. We might pretend to belong to a particular re institution to be accepted by others, but ultimately, our goal is to be respected by others. We want others to love us. We don't want to give love. We want others to love us.
Ultimately, we want to be the boss. We want to be the star. We want to be the greatest at something - whether it be sports, job, community or another club.
And those who seek the position of spiritual teacher - whether it be priest, reverend, guru, pope or bishop - are also seeking to have others love them. They may put up a great front of prayer - and speak a great sermon in church - but they want to be the center of attention. The leader of the pack. The big guy in the room. This is no different than the person who wants to be CEO or a big movie star or rock star.
In other words, those of us drowning in self-centeredness will use whatever niche we find available to gain the respect of others - even if it means using religion. This is why Jesus said:
"Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Matt. 7:22-23)Isn't this what priests and preachers do (or try to do) - prophesize in Jesus' name, drive out demons and perform miracles in his name? Yes. Yet Jesus is calling them "evildoers." Why?
Because they are only using Jesus to gain the attention and acceptance of others. They are using Jesus to become the big guy in the room.
Before this statement Jesus clarifies who pleases him:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 7:21)Doing "the will of my Father" means engaging to please God. This means having a loving relationship with the Supreme Being. Doing someone else's will means doing things that please the other person. A person who works to please another without expecting a return (which is a business relationship) is executing care for that person. This is the meaning of love.
And if we have any doubt that Jesus wanted his students - and all of us - to love the Supreme Being, we can just read Jesus' statement - also quoting the prophet Moses who taught repeatedly of love for God - when Jesus was asked which is the most important commandment:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)