Don’t you hate it when your own words come back to bite you? This morning I was talking with one of our Shepherds about how I should respond to a certain situation when he said, “You need to go back and re-read your article.” I knew exactly which article he was talking about it and so I did. And then I decided to share it with you. It’s something I wrote for our bulletin a couple of weeks back. My apologies to those who read both the bulletin and the blog for repeating an article, but perhaps we all need a refresher…
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say 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. (Mt 5:10-12)
No one ever said that Jesus’ teachings were easy, but I’ve always found this one to be particularly difficult. To be kind in the face of insults and slander is not easy. And I confess that I haven’t always done so. Yet, the teaching remains.
I actually see two things within this passage…a promise and a command. The promise is not “if you follow me good things will always happen and people will always speak well of you.” Actually, it’s the opposite. If you follow Jesus, you can expect some persecution and opposition. And the command is not “therefore you should get angry and return the favor.” Rather Jesus commands us to “rejoice.” Later on he tells us to “turn the other cheek” and “pray for those who persecute you.” All are very difficult responses because all go completely against our natural instincts.
Our instinct is to strike back. When someone spreads rumors about us, we want to spread rumors about them. When someone insults us, we want to insult them. When someone attacks us, we want to return the favor. But Jesus calls us to a higher way. He calls us to respond with love, kindness, compassion and self-control. It’s never easy, but it’s always possible.
Here’s what I’ve tried to do in my own life to apply these teachings…
- When you hear rumors, treat them as such. Don’t get riled over something that’s only “hear-say.” Wait for the truth to come out.
- When someone speaks wrongly against you, don’t respond immediately. Give it a day or two. Give some time for the Holy Spirit to penetrate your thoughts and influence your response.
- When someone accuses you of evil or wrong-doing, weigh their accusations to see if there is any merit but don’t wallow in them. Find your assurance in God and his Word, not in the opinions of others.
- When someone persecutes you because of your faith, pray for them. Pray that compassion and understanding would infiltrate their heart. Above all, seek the higher path. Never respond in kind. Instead, respond in kindness