Do we suffer for Christ, or for being obnoxious?
Jesus said, “Blessed are you when men hate you, exclude you, revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake” (Luke 6:22).
The last six words make an important point: there’s only a blessing for suffering for Christ.
There are times we’ve all been selfish, unkind, and harsh. We haven’t listened well, and we’ve acted arrogantly. As a result, people have hated, excluded, reviled, or criticized us.
But there’s no reward for this.
It’s unfortunate when we’re disliked or rejected because of our selfishness, but we say:
- I’m suffering all this persecution, because of the way I live for Christ.
- Everyone hates me because I’m such a strong Christian.
- Others don’t have it as bad as me, because they’re not as committed to the Lord as I am.
Sometimes we’re persecuted, but it’s actually because we’ve failed to demonstrate Christ-like character. Yes, there’s rejection for living like Christ, but there’s also rejection for being an insensitive or inconsiderate person.
If we go through life and find:
- Many people dislike us.
- We can’t get along with others.
- We’re regularly in arguments.
- People are frequently upset with us.
Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, we should have the humility to ask, “Is this happening to me ‘for the Son of Man’s sake’ or because I’m obnoxious?”
I knew an individual who couldn’t get along with people anywhere: at home, church, or his job. He would often say things like, “Jesus said, ‘You will be hated by all for My name’s sake…in the world you will have tribulation.’”
But his suffering had nothing to with Christ and everything to do with his behavior, and Jesus is not offering a blessing for being so unlike Him we push people away. Peter captures it perfectly:
“For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God” (1 Pet 2:19-20).
It’s commendable if we’re persecuted for the Lord, but there’s nothing commendable about suffering “for [our own] faults.”
A number of Proverbs describe how terrible it is being around fools, because they’re prideful, they don’t listen, they always think they’re right, they can’t be corrected, etc.:
Proverbs 17:12 Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly.
Despite how terrible it would be meeting a bear robbed of her cubs, it’s still better than dealing with a fool. Abigail’s husband Nabal is a perfect example, not just because his name means “fool”, but because of the way people felt about him:
- 1 Samuel 25:17 For he is such a scoundrel that one cannot speak to him.
- 1 Samuel 25:25 Abigail said, “Please, let not my lord regard this scoundrel Nabal. For as his name is, so is he: Nabal is his name, and folly is with him!”
How did people feel about Nabal? Like Jesus said, He was hated, excluded, reviled, and criticized, but it had nothing to do with any godly character, and it had everything to do with his obnoxiousness.
So here’s what we should ask ourselves when we’re treated the way Jesus described: are we experiencing this because we’re living for the Lord, or because we’ve been obnoxious?
You can listen to the sermon this is taken from here.