Have you ever read in Revelation or other parts of the Bible where God talks about giving different crowns to his servants who act according to his will? I want to take a moment to discuss the concepts of rewards.
Oftentimes, God does things backwards to make his point. He crowned Christ with thorns instead of an earthly kingdom on the cross. He is strength in mortal weakness. He makes straight crooked paths. All of those things are part of who God is.
It is important to also note that he calls us to follow him, and to rely on his spirit to be made like him. There are plenty of people who claim to follow Christ, but never become like him. Given that following God’s will can feel like a crap ton of blessing while we are here on earth, the amount of emphasis placed on rewards by the church can be upsetting. Why do we do that?
To attempt to answer that question, I want to go back to the crowns thing. On my campus, there are various people I know who have made a fiercely territorial reputation in suffering more than others. No one else is granted the right to experience pain, and you know it immediately when you speak with a person who falls under this observation. I don’t believe they mean bad. But our actions have a way of rubbing off on people, and you cant escape how others will feel if you don’t give them the option to be themself in your company.
Love doesn’t limit other people’s personhood and ability to seek the truth. By clinging to our own individual concepts of martyrdom, we entirely miss the blessing of Jesus more often than not. Either that, or we confuse what it means to be a Christian with being miserable.
Following Christ isn’t misery, it’s blessing. If all that you see externally of Christians is them wallowing in their own self righteousness and then putting the name of Jesus over the top of it, that will exclude you from faith by giving you an excuse not to try to get to know him for yourself.
I want to point out that Christians are just as imperfect as any other humans. If you expect the body of Christ to be perfect, what you’re really looking for is Jesus, because no human can be perfect. That being said, Christians obviously make mistakes. With increasing faith over time, just how imperfect the body of Christ is becomes more obvious, BUT God calls us to love one another whether that costs us a little or a lot. We rely on his strength. That is exactly why forcing a crown of thorns on yourself and others makes everyone miserable; there is no resolution by human effort alone.
You don’t suffer and deprive love in order to get rewarded. The blessing you live out in your life can often be just as much of a reward for you as it is others, but God does that on purpose. He calls us to live in a spirit of love, and that is made obvious or not over time. If you want to be blessed, bless others. If you want to bless others, whether you think you need it or not, you will inevitably be blessed.
With fruits of the spirit, you don’t get something from nothing. You have to die to your ego to allow Christ to replace false idols you were clinging to in the first place. It’s hard work to allow God to change you, but it provides for genuine blessing, and the most important gift in how God blesses individuals is that if you are continuing to live under grace. The problem with explaining fruits of the spirit isn’t in that they aren’t easy to explain, but that so few people want to actually listen that they get distorted under the weight of mass disobedience.
It is important to think through what effect you have on the people around you, and ask yourself whether it’s really enough for the blessing God means to achieve through loving you. Your life is your choice, but your choices usually count.