We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.
(1 Corinthians 4:10-13)
The apostles, according to Paul, were treated like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. For the sake of Christ, they were treated worse than garbage. They were not winning any popularity contests, for sure! What did they endure for Christ? Can we picture the humiliation, rejection and mistreatment they lived through for the cause of Christ?
That makes me uncomfortable. What makes me even more uncomfortable is that Jesus told us to rejoice and consider ourselves blessed when we are treated that way.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
I was reading Isaiah 20 recently. Isaiah was asked to walk around naked and barefoot for 3 years as a sign against Egypt and Ethiopia (Isaiah 20). Whatever that specifically meant for Isaiah, commentators have debated, but I can gather from chapter 20 that it meant shame and public humiliation for Isaiah. It was a sign, prophecy and warning of the shame and public humiliation that those two evil nations would experience. Isaiah was allowed to be shamed and humiliated for God’s glory and righteous cause.
Paul wrote in his next letter to the Corinthians that he had learned to be “content” with such things as insults and persecutions for Christ’s sake (2 Corinthians 12:10). He knew that through such trials Christ’s strength, not Paul’s strength, would work in him.
Are we willing to become a public spectacle for Christ’s sake? Please don’t think that I’m saying we should go around and intentionally try to bring attention to ourselves and make a scene. But when we live and stand for Jesus, the insults and humiliation will naturally come (2 Timothy 3:12). Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hates the light.
When you walk away from sin, your friends and family will notice. Those closest to you may mock you and insult you for your stand. Don’t cave in because you want to fit in. Lovingly stand for Jesus.
The apostle Peter must have struggled with this desire to cave in and make nice with others. It is a natural human instinct to avoid pain. Peter did it when Jesus was on trial (Mark 14:66-72), and he did it later in life when the Jews put pressure on him to shun the Gentiles (Galatians 2). Peter knew the temptation to avoid mistreatment and persecution, but as a mature older man in Christ he said the following things about the treatment you will receive as a Christian and how to behave and think when it happens.
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
(1 Peter 2:12)
…having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
(1 Peter 3:16-17)
For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
(1 Peter 4:3-5)
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
(1 Peter 4:14-16)
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
(1 Peter 4:19)