Friday, September 19, 2008

Matthew 5:11 Joy in spite of Persecution Part II

I have faced situations that have caused me great anxiety in my life. Probably one of the scariest was the birth of my first child. Kids scared me to death. The idea of changing a poop diaper was particularly frightening. But the thing that was the most terrifying to me was the prospect of seeing my wife go through labor. I wasn’t sure what to expect. We went to the usual child birth classes and I found those to be quite helpful. Once I heard about what sorts of things to expect, practiced the breathing exercises, and talked with other expectant parents I noticed I was much less nervous. It was still scary but I was prepared for what would happen. In much the same way, Jesus prepared us for how we are going to be treated by the world in verse 10 of this chapter. In verses 11 and 12, He provides divine commentary on His word that helps explain the sorts of things that we should expect as we live as redeemed children of the King in this world.

First of all, observe what Jesus says that people will say about us. Jesus says that people will “insult you”. The word insult is “oneidizo” (3679) and the literal meaning of the word is “to cast into the teeth”. It can mean to hurl a personal insult at someone but it also can mean to rebuke or reproach someone. For instance, in Matthew 11:20 the word is used when Matthew writes “20 Then He began to denounce (oneidizo) the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent”. The term is also used to describe insulting or making fun of someone in Matthew 27:44 “44 The robbers who had been crucified with Him were also insulting (oneidizo) Him with the same words”. I have been called a right-wing, narrow minded, ignorant, Bible thumping fundamentalist—and that’s just by other people who claim to be Christians. It should come as no surprise when we proclaim the truth of God’s word and try to live out that truth in this world that the world not only doesn’t give us a standing ovation but calls us names. People call us all sorts of hateful names because of what we stand for and what we stand against. We will be the butt of public jokes. Our faith is now openly mocked on T.V. and in other media. In fact, it seems as though orthodox Christianity is the only truly safe target in all religions for the world to make fun of. We’re also not only insulted, but we’re also rebuked. If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard “The bible says you shouldn’t judge others” I would probably be able to take a nice vacation somewhere with my family. We are told that we are hateful for holding to biblical morality. A law was introduced in this country that could potentially have made it criminal for a pastor to stand in the pulpit and call homosexuality a sin. However, we shouldn’t act surprised when we are scolded for our faith. We have been told here by our Lord to expect it and that we will be blessed for it.

Secondly, Jesus tells us how we will be treated. We will not only be spoken to in a rude, insulting manner, but we will also be “persecuted (dioko-1377). First of all, this word has the idea of chasing or pursuing someone or something. It is the same word Paul uses in Philippians 3:6 when he says that he persecuted the church. We all know how intensely he did that. He went out of his way to go after the followers of Christ and was passionate about it. It seemed as if he had the mindset of wanting to exterminate them like we would want to rid our homes of roaches. In the history of the church, Christians have in fact been treated as vermin in all parts of the world. In the first generation church, men and women were martyred in brutal, horrific ways—burned at the stake, crucified, fed to lions, and drowned. This kind of persecution is not common perhaps in my country but it nonetheless happens in other parts of the world. The fact is, it is not something that should take us by surprise or cause us to lose heart. We can be encouraged by the fact that even though we may face physical persecution our soul is safe and will be in heaven with our Lord when our body dies.

Finally, we see how people will talk about us to others. Jesus says that people “will falsely say all kinds of evil” against us. People will lie about us in order to defame our character and tarnish our witness. In the trial Jesus faced before the Jews, false witnesses were called but they couldn’t get their story straight. Finally, two of those knuckleheads finally were able to lie well enough to say the same thing. They claimed that Christ said He would destroy the temple. The implication was that He would insight rebellion against the Jewish religion. Of course, that had nothing to do with what He meant. In the early church, people falsely reported that Christians practiced cannibalism during the Lord’s Supper. Nero even suggested that it was Christians who burned Rome. Over and over again, people lie intentionally about us and our faith because our faith stands as a testament to the evil of the world system. They say and do all this things to us but in reality they mistreat us “because of Me [Christ}”. Those who want to live in rebellion against God and His word want not only to attack the bible but also those of us who stand for the truth of the bible. We can stand strong in the midst of persecution because we know it is coming and we know through the power of our Lord we can overcome the world in His name.

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible Copyright 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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