Today I read a devotion from Charles Stanley’s devotional book, “Every Day in His Presence.” It focused on Matthew 5:11. “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” As I was trying to decide how best to journal this in my Bible, I began to focus on what Charles Stanley said about how we are to react to criticism. We are to do good to them, pray for them, and forgive them. What popped out at me was that all of these actions are based in love for those who persecute, criticize, and abuse us because of Christ. So as I look at the Scripture, I see that when we treat those who come against us with love, we are blessed by God for loving as He would.
This is not always an easy thing to do. When someone criticizes or condemns us, our first instinct is to defend ourselves. Satan would like nothing better than to lead us down this pathway. As Believers, we are to be Christ-like and follow His example. Jesus showed us how to react to the attacks of those who ridicule Him and His followers. He responded with love toward His accusers, yet He spoke truthfully and with authority. The disciples were warned that they too would suffer persecution, (Matthew 10:22, Acts 9:16) but He also told them that they would do greater works than He so that many might believe (John 14:12.)
In my former job we received mail from viewers describing personal attacks from others. Because we only received one side of the story, we couldn’t side with our viewer and tell them that they were in the right, because we truly didn’t know the whole story. Each person sees the same incident from different sides. A former boss of mine called this, “looking through different filters.” Each one of us looks at circumstances and events through a filter, mostly because of our upbringing, or drawing on past experiences. Those filters may not give an accurate account of what actually happened, just how we perceived the events.
When we feel that we have been the subject of persecution, we need to take stock of the actual event, not how we feel, or what we think someone said, but the actual truth of the matter. This calls for discernment of the facts, in how we approach the issue, and asking for God to guide us in coming to the proper conclusion about the matter. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “Because I’m a Christian, I am being persecuted.” Now, that may very well be true, but often times I’ve found, the issue wasn’t so much because they were a Christian they were being attacked, it was more likely that they had done or said something that started the whole problem in the first place, and very likely were in the wrong.
A lot of this also has to do with attitude. Are we exhibiting a Christ-like attitude or are we allowing Satan to have his way and spewing out hate, pride, jealousy, and anger? A few years ago the phrase, “What Would Jesus Do?” was all the rage. Everyone was wearing wrist bands and necklaces, bumper stickers were seen on cars, all with that catch-phrase, and it was a really good thought upon which to ponder. However, as fads go, it went just as quickly as it had come, and people didn’t really consider it. As Believers, it’s still a really good question….in any given situation, what would He do? Most likely, the answer was and is….respond in love.