Recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. (Hebrews 10:32–35)
The Christians in Hebrews 10:32–35 have earned the right to teach us about costly love.
The situation appears to be this: In the early days of their conversion, some of them were imprisoned for their faith. The others were confronted with a difficult choice: Shall we go underground and stay “safe,” or shall we visit our brothers and sisters in prison and risk our lives and property? They chose the way of love and accepted the cost.
“For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property.”
But were they losers? No. They lost property and gained joy! They joyfully accepted the loss.
In one sense, they denied themselves. It was real and costly. But in another sense, they did not. They chose the way of joy. Evidently, these Christians were motivated for prison ministry the same way the Macedonians (of 2 Corinthians 8:1–9) were motivated to relieve the poor. Their joy in God overflowed in love for others.
They looked at their own lives and said, “The steadfast love of the Lord is better than life” (see Psalm 63:3).
They looked at all their possessions and said, “We have a possession in heaven that is better and lasts longer than any of this” (see Hebrews 10:34).
Then they looked at each other and said — perhaps sang — something like Martin Luther’s great hymn:
Let goods and kindred go
This mortal life also
The body they may kill
God’s truth abideth still
His kingdom is forever