“For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings… To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.” 1 Corinthians 4:9-13
As I contemplate Paul’s words above, I am struck by the fact that he was describing the way of things for the apostles of Jesus. The apostles! These were the specially chosen spokesmen for the King of kings and Lord of lords. These were, unbeknownst to most of the world around them, the most honored and powerful human beings on earth at the time. Yet, look at what Paul wrote about their status in the world.
What is so wonderful and disconcerting about this passage, Disciple, is what it indicates about our lives as those who follow Jesus and the pattern of His apostles. The reason Paul and the other apostles embraced lives of such lowliness and mistreatment, despite their true importance and power, was that they were walking in the Spirit and attitude of their Master. As stunning as these things are in the case of the apostles, isn’t it almost unthinkable that the glorious One, Jesus, lived this way? Paul’s description above very accurately fits Jesus’ mortal life in this world as well.
The view that the dark and sinful world had of Jesus and His apostles is, unfortunately, the view it is meant to have of all Jesus’ communities. If we trust and cling to Him, walk in His way, adopt His values, and become like Him, what else can we expect than to be viewed and treated the same way He was? Remember what He Himself said about this: “If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!” (Matthew 10:25). As He said on the night of His betrayal and arrest, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18).
And so here’s a choice we must make, Disciple: are we willing to be viewed and treated as the bottom, the “scum”, “the garbage of the world” for Jesus’ sake? We have been thoroughly trained in our society to stick up for our own rights and fight for our own justice. Will we embrace this very different way of our Master and accept humiliation for the sake of His kingdom? Will we love when we’re scorned, bless when we’re cursed, and answer kindly when we’re slandered? Will we gladly accept a place in the back and at the bottom because we know beyond all doubt that we are, in reality, an honored and glorified people who are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ?
Whatever others might say or do, Disciple, may you have the joy of fellowship with Jesus and His apostles, walking in the simple and inviolable joy and peace of full and unending life in God’s Kingdom!
Accepted by Christ, the rejected One,