“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” – Matthew 5:11,12
I should say, first of all, that living in the United States, I don’t suffer the worst of persecution or even close to it. If you want to find actual persecution, go to the territory owned by ISIS and see what happens to Christians there.
That said, I certainly seem to get reviled a lot, and there are many lies told about the Church these days. More and more, we seem to be approaching a time when being openly Christian is not really socially acceptable. It is appropriate in society’s eyes to give lip service to God. That much is even quite desirable. But to actually follow Him and obey the teachings of the Church is generally laughed at at best.
For me, the struggle often centers around truth. I can handle people being mean to me, but when they spread falsity, I lose it and argue. This is not the Christian way. Christ said to “rejoice, and be exceedingly glad”. That’s quite a command. I’ve heard very nasty things said about all Christians. It is very hard not to list the evil things said to me about my Church and my God, but I won’t because this is not the place for arguments. I’ve been shocked by the statements that people will make about me just because of my faith.
“Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Christ gives us the answer on how to rejoice. He reminds us that when we have people lie about us and say all manner of nasty things about us, we are joined with the prophets. This is something to meditate on. I tell myself that I am lucky to be lied about when it’s because I am a Christian, but I have to remind myself sometimes even just seconds later. At my church, we sing the beatitudes every Sunday. I’m usually busy helping out at around that time, but I always listen to them when I can.
I read “The Way of a Pilgrim” earlier this year. There is a scene in the book where the narrator has been viciously lied about and whipped by the authorities as a result. His response was joy because he was suffering for Christ. I was pretty amazed at just how happy he was about it. I feel like I’d have been irate at that point. Writing all this down is helpful to me. In this light, when I think back to the nasty things said about me and my church, and even my God, I am happy. I am happy that I and my church can suffer for Christ’s sake.
It could be said that worrying about people saying nasty things is a small struggle. Like I said, true persecution is happening in many places where people are being put to death for their faith. Yet, this is the struggle I have now. This is the struggle I know. I hope these are helpful thoughts for others who feel like they have to walk on eggshells around others when it comes to their faith. I hope this is useful to those who feel tempted to argue back like I do.
My last thought for today is that our Lord specifically used the word “Falsely”. We are blessed when people say evil things “Falsely”. Behaving like a jerk and getting called out on it is not what gets us that blessing. Starting arguments and losing them isn’t a virtue. This also helps remind me to be calm and forgiving, rather than fight with people. It’s a struggle, but I’m learning.