“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely claim all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Mathew 5, 11 – 12)
Walter Lübke being a German local politician was treacherously murdered in June. He campaigned for refugees and was insulted and threatened because of his involvement. A 45-year-old neo-Nazi murdered him because of his conviction. Germany was horrified.
To make matters worse, Social networks were used to write cynical and insulting comments about the death of this politician . The German Federal President Steinmeier criticized these reactions. He said such reactions are "tasteless, dreadful and disgusting in every way”. How true!
Our Constitution opens with the words: "The dignity of man is inviolable." (Article 1, 1). Unfortunately, our daily life often looks totally different. Whenever people in our country receive hate and get insulted, the dignity of these people is trampled on.
In his "Basic Law on the mountain”, Jesus predicts to his followers that their dignity will also be hurt. Who believes in Jesus Christ, who wants to live according to the commandments of God´ s love and charity, must, paradoxically, at the same time expect insults, hate and persecution. He or she cannot expect respect and appreciation alone.
Jesus tells his people: Do not expect to be on the sunny side of the faith. It may be that your belief in me may even result in many disadvantages for you. You can be classified as a social loser. You can be labeled to become an outsider. Even an enemy of your country. You will be offended. You may even have to fear about your life.
For many Christians at these times, this became a bitter reality in the Roman Empire. This is reported in the Letter to the Hebrews in chapter 11, 35 - 38.
But even two thousand years after Jesus' admonishing words, insult and persecution have become reality for many Christians. In Germany, these experiences do not rest far in the past. Representing many as being persecuted in Nazi Germany, I recall the Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Catholic Jesuit priest Alfred Delp. A.Delp wrote on the day of his execution (February 2, 1945) from prison:
"How long since I wait here; if and when to be killed, I don´t know. The way up to the gallows to Plötzensee (a Nazi camp) is only ten minutes to drive from here. One learns it only shortly before the term is immanent. Do not be sad. God helps so wonderfully and noticeably until now. I'm not scared yet. That will probably come. Maybe God wants this as the ultimate test of trust. That's okay by me. I want to make an effort to fall as a fertile seed into the soil, for all of you and for this country and people, whom I wanted to serve and help. "(Source Wikipedia)
In these lines, I discover the consolation that Jesus told us: "Blessed are those who suffer because they are to be comforted" (Mt. 5,4) And I also discover what the apostle Paul said: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1, 21) Paul enjoyed life with Jesus Christ. He loved to live. But he knew that beyond death, the immediate and glorious presence of the Lord Jesus Christ would await him.
We Christians in Europe and in other democratic and constitutional countries are grateful for the freedom in which we are able to exercise our Christian faith. I am grateful to live in a time of peace since 70 years. I am grateful not to be exposed to governmental violence because I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
But Jesus' last beatitude also reminds me not to forget those women, men and children who are suffering persecution today. Christians being insulted and hated, or may sit in prisons. The reason they suffer, is because they love the Lord Jesus Christ. These sisters and brothers of Jesus need our prayer. Any time. And we must not forget them!