Last week I heard Rush Limbaugh say that one of the great lessons he learned is that being hated by people is a measure of success. Of course, Rush has an audience in the millions. And he surely has millions who at least strongly disagree with what he says. Many of them may actually hate him.
The Lord Jesus said that we are blessed if men persecute us and revile us wrongly on account of Him (Matt 5:11-12). That is the same principle, is it not? If we suffering for the Lord, we should view that as a measure of success.
Of course, if we suffer because of our own silliness, we are not really suffering for the Lord. I taught two high school science classes when I was getting my teaching credential. During that semester I also helped lead a Bible study on campus. I remember a female student came to the Bible study one Monday with a black eye. She said a man had hit her because she was witnessing for Jesus at the beach.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Well, I was coming up to people at Huntington Beach and saying, ‘Jesus loves you.’ I came up to this one man and he said he wasn’t interested. I persisted: ‘Jesus loves you.’ He told me, loudly this time, to get away and leave him alone. I thought the Lord wanted me to stress His love for the man so a bit louder I repeated, ‘JESUS LOVES YOU!’ Then he hauled off and hit me in the eye.”
I suspect her suffering was due more to her failing to be sensitive to the man’s wishes and warnings and less to her witness for Jesus.
But haven’t we all been persecuted when we shared our faith? Even when we have taught Sunday school or Bible studies many of us have received persecution. I’ve had people wag their heads at me as I’ve been speaking. They’ve given me the evil eye. They’ve made snarky comments during the Q & A (or even interrupting me as I spoke).
I certainly have found that to be true in my ministry for the Lord at GES. I’ve often been criticized by Lordship Salvation people. And I’ve even been criticized by Free Grace people on occasion.
Zane Hodges set a good example for me. He was constantly being vilified for his writing and speaking ministry. I saw that criticism hurt him a lot. Yet he did not cease his ministry. He kept at it.
The suffering you and I endure is far less than what the Lord Himself and His Apostles endured. They were actually killed by those who persecuted them.
When I am criticized for what I’ve written or said about Christ, I reflect on the criticism. Is it valid? If not, if I’m convinced what I said is Biblical, then I put my thinking on the Lord and not on the embarrassment I feel. If I’m in doubt, I ask my Board and others if I was out of line. I seek counsel to make sure that I communicated the right thing in the right tone with the right attitude.
Yes, being persecuted for our faith is awkward. But there is reward for that. If it didn’t hurt, the reward would not be as significant for suffering for the Lord.
I hope we will all view persecution for Christ—if it is indeed persecution for Him and not for mistakes we make—as a good thing. We shouldn’t seek it out. But if it comes, we are blessed, according to the Lord Himself.