When you walk with the Lord for any length of time, you will experience a bit of reviling and maligning from people. In fact, opposition and insult is a clear sign that you are in the middle of God’s will for your life.
I am reminded of a story about John Wesley whose preaching ministry had gained enormous popularity during the 18th century. As he was riding from one village to the next to conduct a series of meetings, he realized that it had been a few days since he received any opposition or any persecution. Deeply troubled by this and remembering the words of Jesus in Luke 6:26, “Woe to you when people speak well of you”, Wesley exclaimed, “Could it be that I am a backslider or a sinner under judgment?” Quickly, he jumped off his horse and knelt in prayer, pleading with the Lord in earnest to speak to him.
As Wesley was praying, he was overheard by a man who then yelled, “Is that the devil John Wesley I hear?” and he picked up a stone and threw it at John, barely missing him. Suddenly Wesley’s eyes shot open, his countenance cheered and said “Thank you, Lord! I know I still have your presence!”
Maligning and persecution is sure to happen but how do we respond when it does? Because let’s be real, it never feels good to be made fun of, ridiculed or put down. When it happens, there arises up within us a sense of vindication—that we must preserve our reputation. Also, there is a natural tendency toward vengeance by which we seek to pay someone back for what they said or did. When that happens, our “paying someone back” goes well beyond the initial hurt and ends up becoming increasingly destructive to ourselves and to others.
That is why the Bible says, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). The reason is because only God has the perfect sense of justice. Additionally, only God has the power to right every wrong that is committed by people, either by way of the cross or an eternity in Hell.
The book of 1 Peter gives us the answer of how we are to respond when we are faced with mistreatment of various kinds: Follow the example of Jesus.
Peter writes, that Christ and what he did while on earth, has left an example for us to follow (1 Peter 2:21). He goes on to say, that when Christ was reviled, he did not revile in return and when he suffered, he did not threaten those who were inflicting the suffering (1 Peter 2:23).
When Jesus was mocked, spit at, beaten and even crucified, he didn’t raise his voice in threats nor did he respond to the violence done against him with more violence. After all, he could have called ten thousand legions of angels to his defense and annihilated everyone who was responsible but instead he loved enemies and prayed for them.
Jesus not only taught about “turning the other cheek” but modeled it for us profoundly in the last moments of his life.
In all the abuse and suffering that was inflicted on Christ, Peter ends verse 23 with the phrase that Jesus “continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
As hard as it may be to not retaliate or react when you are wronged, insulted or abused, we must remember that God is a just God and no wrong escapes him. In all the wrong that Jesus experienced at the hands of sinful people, God ultimately vindicated Jesus by raising him from the grave.
And God will vindicate his people as well.
So, when you are reviled or treated poorly because you bear the name of Christ just remember “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Matt. 5:10), rejoice and respond in love.
God’s always got your back.