Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Current Study: First Peter
Today’s Topic: Responding to Insults
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 4:14 (NIV) If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
We love conflict. We may avoid it in our personal lives, but we are attracted to it in others. That’s what made last night’s football game so interesting. It’s been a long time since one game got so much media hype, and it was all based on conflict. Football fans around the world joined in. Dozens of people gathered in Eau Claire for a jersey burning. Signs were carried outside and inside the stadium hurling insults at the opposition. People proud of their team boldly wore radical outfits and colors to publicly display their position. Regardless of the name-calling or derision by those of a different persuasion, they held their ground, mostly with return volleys of verbal abuse.
When threatened, our natural tendency is to protect our position. When attacked, we respond by rising up in defense. We generally fight back in kind, using the weapons of the enemy as our own. It’s our human nature. And we have defended some pretty insignificant positions. We expend an incredible amount of energy fighting for things that are eternally irrelevant. Then, when the true tests of our faith in Christ come, we cower in fear because we are trusting in our own strength rather than the Spirit of God that rests upon us.
I am so confused by western Christianity. We are willing to wear purple in green territory and be insulted for it, but we avoid letting Christ be seen in our lives for fear that the insults will hurt too much. We stand and proclaim our loyalty to products that have supposedly changed our lives, but refuse to testify about the One who truly did. And then, if by some freakish circumstance someone does find out that our faith is in Jesus Christ and not in the world, and they begin to insult and attack us, we rise up with what we think is strength and terrorize them right back.
But that is not the nature of Christ who is living in us. When we are persecuted for Christ, and we will be if His life is being lived through us, we are to respond with the Spirit of God that rests on us. Let me illustrate:
There is an old legend that tells of Hercules encountering a strange animal on a narrow road. He struck it with his club and passed. Soon the animal overtook him, now three times as large as before. Hercules struck it fast and furiously, but the more he clubbed the beast, the larger it grew. Then Pallas appeared to Hercules and warned him to stop. “The monster’s name is Strife,” he said. “Let it alone and it will soon become as little as at first.”
But where do we get such patience to be able to overlook the attacks of people? Well, it comes from being secure in your identity in Christ. I remember an old childhood rhyme that went, Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me. That is true of anyone who is confident of their identity. Christ is our identity. He has already suffered all the insults and persecution for us. His Spirit rests upon us, and as a result we are blessed. How can insults remove the blessing of the Father in heaven?
An official of a mission board, who knew it takes more than desire to make a missionary, was appointed to examine a candidate. He told the young man to come to his house at six o’clock in the morning. The young man went at six in the morning to be examined, and the examiner kept him sitting in the room until ten. Then he went down to him and said abruptly, “Can you write your name? Do you even know what your name is?” “Yes, sir.” He put him through a series of questions of that kind, and then went to the mission board and said, “He will do. I tried his patience for four hours, and he did not break down; I then insulted him, and he did not lose his temper. He will do.”
If a man answers all abuses with magnanimity, patience, fortitude, and gentleness, you can depend upon it – Christ’s love has conquered his heart. His Christianity is vindicated by the very quality of his character.
Thomas a Kempis, who wrote The Imitation of Christ, said, Christ was despised on earth by men, and in his greatest need, amidst insults, was abandoned by those who knew him and by his friends; and you dare to complain of anyone? Christ had his adversaries and slanderers; and you wish to have everyone as friends and benefactors? When will your patience win its crown if it has encountered nothing of adversity?
The game is over. The jerseys have been put away for another week. Wounds are being licked. New insults are being developed. But who really cares when the very people we are trying to impress with our loyalties are heading towards a Christ-less eternity of suffering. It’s time to take a stand for Christ. It’s time to show our loyalty to royalty and live for the King.