Can Christians be happy when people say evil things about them?
By Don Ruhl
There are some people you want to say good things about you and there are some people that you do not want to say good things about you. You do not want the devil saying good things about you. In fact, if he says bad things about you, that is good. Jesus says,
Woe to you when all men speak well of you,
For so did their fathers to the false prophets.
Is it strange, if a soldier is glad to suffer ridicule while a POW? an American is mocked by al-Qaeda? a Christian is verbally abused for doing what is right?
The eighth Beatitude is the ultimate paradox, because it goes against our self-preserving nature. The first seven Beatitudes speak of our reaction to our own situations, to others and to God. The eighth Beatitude in Matthew chapter 5, speaks of the world reacting to us and how we respond to the world.
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 (Matt 5.10–12).
Is it not better to be one of them that are cursed, than to be of them that curse? Ironically, the people who make peace, spoken of in the seventh Beatitude, shall have people who make war with them.
Interestingly, Jesus gives the eighth Beatitude twice in verses 10 and 11, perhaps because we find it the most difficult to accept.
Blessed Are the Persecuted?
Did Jesus put “blessed” in the same sentence with “persecuted” and “righteousness”? Yes, He did. By His death, He took away the curse of God, but not the curses of men. Therefore, the way to heaven is a path full of thorny roses. The blessing is for persecution for righteousness’ sake and for Jesus’ sake (verse 11b).
Why do people persecute Christians for doing what is right? Righteousness offends lovers of evil. A righteous life is a rebuke to a sinner. In John chapter 3, Jesus illustrates what we have all experienced. You were asleep and someone turned on the light. What was your reaction? How about when you were doing something wrong?
And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed (John 3.19, 20).
The Form of the Persecution
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake” (Matt 5.11). Does persecution have to be physical before we consider it persecution? Jesus assures us that verbal abuse is also persecution.
He was persecuted in the very manner of which He speaks. He was called a Samaritan (in a derogatory way), a demoniac and insane. They mocked Him on the cross, said His power came from Beelzebub, and they gave false testimony at His trial.
However, Jesus said the evil that is spoken must be false. This is when it truly hurts.
When Verbally Persecuted, You Are Blessed
“Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt 5.10–12). Jesus began this Beatitude with a promise of the ultimate blessing, the kingdom of heaven. Can you think of a greater blessing than going to heaven?
However, Jesus surprises us with more than heaven. He builds our anticipation by telling us to rejoice and to be exceedingly glad. Here are two reasons why.
- “…for great is your reward in heaven…” Not only is heaven mine, but I have a great reward when I get there. What is that great reward? He does not tell us. However, from what we read in Scripture, we know that heaven is beyond imagination. Moreover, we rejoice and are exceedingly glad for blessings He gives us now, so, what will blessings in heaven be like?
- “…for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you…” Name one prophet who was not persecuted. Yet, we admire them all. Is it not then an honor to be in their company? Therefore, rejoice for the prize that is coming in spite of the suffering along the way.
First Peter chapter 4 assures us that persecution is a blessing.
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified (1Pe 4.12–14).
Is someone persecuting you? Be sad that they are doing what is wrong, but rejoice, because of the Lord’s promises. We often think of good things as signs that God is with us, but bad things are signs that God is with us also. Yet, all people have both good and bad happen to them. How do you make sure it is all for the reward that is coming? Follow Jesus Christ.
Don Ruhl has been preaching with the Savage Street Church of Christ in Grants Pass, Oregon since October 2002. He can be contacted at 220 NE Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon 97526-1301, 541-476-3100, Rdruhl@aol.com