Last night we began looking at some specific scriptures which seem to be especially important for Christians to know for the days we’re living in. Here are the notes from the study:
The Scripture: Matthew 5:10-12
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Why it’s essential: Verse 11 says that one of the things Christians can expect to experience is that we will be lied about. This is not simply as individuals, but as a group. It should not surprise us when we’re slandered. Today Christians may be called: hateful, arrogant, dangerous, divisive, violent, bigoted, mean, or other things like stupid, close-minded and behind the times.
What we need to know from these verses:
Jesus tells us four things about this reality:
- We will be “reviled.” (insult, denounce, disgrace, dishonor) The details of this change from culture to culture. But the ways Christians will be spoken against will match the culture and the times. The things no one wants to be—this is what Christians will be called.
- These insults will be “all kinds.” We can expect a whole variety of things said against us. Probably we will have trouble keeping up, and be surprised by the new things that are said.
- The essence of these insults is “evil.” It may masquerade as good, as having the moral high ground. It may claim to critique our moral standing, and call Christians (This happens today in India where fundamentalist Hindu groups seek to hold mass conversion of Christians to Hinduism, claiming Christians convert people by force. It happens in Muslim-dominated areas where Christians are called people who oppose God, live immorally and believe lies. It happens in our country where Christians are increasingly being labeled as intolerant and hateful, and as the one and only group standing in the way of freedom and progress.) But it’s not good. It’s evil.
- These statements are “false.” Jesus uses a word that is usually translated “lying.” It’s that simple. These things are lies. Christians themselves may sometimes be tempted to believe them. But they can know that these things are lies. If they don’t match reality and the word of God, we don’t need to worry about them.
What should be our reaction? “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad.” (v.12) Why? You are “blessed.”
- (future) “Your reward is great in heaven.” Also, the kingdom is yours (v.10). In other words, whatever we miss out on here because of what our connection to Christ costs us, we have much more coming to us when the kingdom arrives.
- (past) We have a heritage—we stand in the line of the prophets. So when the insults make you tempted to wonder if you’re doing things wrongly, remember that true messengers of God have always faced slander. (Let scripture tell you what’s going on in the world, not those who don’t know God.)
- (present) You are connected to Jesus. These things are said “for his sake” (v.11). We learn not to take things personally, but to all this as actually directed against Jesus. He himself told us that if people loved him, they would love Christians. If people opposed him, they would oppose Christians. (John 15:8, 15:20)
Some Takeaways from these verses:
- It shouldn’t shock us when this happens.
- We don’t need to go into fits of self-condemnation. All we need to do is honestly look at our behavior and then search the scriptures for God’s correction or encouragement. Non-believers don’t get to define us and tell us what to think. They don’t have good information.
- We should be very careful about joining the chorus of slander against Christians. Many young Christians seem to be able to feel the culture’s pain more easily than they are able to identify with misunderstood yet faithful followers of Christ. But if we’re not careful we end up on the wrong side of Christ, heaping discouragement on people whom Christ is not displeased with.
- The fact that it’s false means that we don’t necessarily have to listen to it. Just because someone says we are mean, hateful, etc, doesn’t mean that we are. They may, for instance, feel love as hate. It’s that backwards today. And something that causes someone pain may actually be good for them. Jesus says we can’t expect the world to “get” what we’re about.
- This requires us to thoroughly reorient the way we “read” the world, off of peoples’ reactions and on to the teachings of Christ and the leading of the Holy Spirit.