Blessed are the Reviled
It has been said, “There are no idle rumors. Rumors are always busy.” There is a rhyme with these words, “Guard well thy tongue – it stretches far, for what you say, tells what you are” (Kn. 411). Reviling is the most sensitive subject in the “Sermon on the Mount.” It is one of the worst sins man commits on a regular basis. And we are all guilty of having spoken ill of some one at one time or another. Particularly, our Western Culture thrives on ridiculing others for fun. Far too many make a living by ridiculing their fellowmen.
The true followers of Jesus, the Christ, expect being reviled, but they feel deeply hurt, when their Lord and Savior is being disrespected and dishonored. Muslims do not allow their Prophet to be mocked. Why must Christians tolerate hearing the Name Jesus being abused? Is there no more decency in the land? Must everything be a joke? There is no more shame and no feeling of guilt among us. Particular, our leaders and many of the clergy leave out the name “Jesus” when they are asked to pray in public. Have we forgotten, that if we are ashamed of our Lord on earth, we shall not see “His Face” in heaven? Do we need to be reminded that God is inaccessible without Jesus? The remarkable thing about Jesus is that He will forgive men that speak ill of Him, if they seek forgiveness (Matthew 12:32). Jesus’ followers must do the same (Matthew 6:14-15).
Jesus was ridicule from the start by his own family and race. They declared Jesus to be suffering from mental fantasy. How could Jesus possibly presume Himself to be that Great Messiah? They accused Jesus of blasphemy and being in league with the devil. Jesus had regarded this as the unpardonable sin against the Holy Spirit or against God, Himself. After all, Jesus was carrying out the Will of His Father in heaven, and they rejected God’s offer of salvation. That is why Jesus severely censored those who used their tongue in a demeaning manner. Jesus put reviling at the end of His “B-Attitudes” for a purpose. It is there as a climax for the behavior of his followers. And Jesus encouraged them to take abuse without retaliating and Jesus praised those who would be reviled on His behalf. Their reward was not going to be on earth, but in a new world, where they would oversee the twelve tribes (Matthew 19:28-30). No other group was promised such an honor. Jesus declared, “Blessed are you when people revile you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).
The term “reviled” is a translation of the Greek “oneidisosin” from the root “oneidizo.” It means to insult, ridicule, mock, degrade, belittle, lie, gossip, and other terms employed for throwing insults at others. It is tongue lashing and bearing false witness against people who are head and shoulder above those who resort to slander. In the eyes of God, it is a capital offense (Exodus 20:16). According James, the tongue has yet to be tamed. It is like a tinny spark, which can set a large forest on fire. It is a world of evil, which corrupts and destroys. With it, we praise God and with it, we curse man (James 3:3-12). And we invent ways and means to keep it active. In the United States, the tongue is protected by the amendment under freedom of speech. However, in reality it protects those who hide behind the cover of the news media. Yet, the words of these reporters are sharper than a two-edged sword. Most of the time, they twist the truth so that the public can make premature judgments. The following example bears out our point. A religious man, who could not curse or swear, but could get angry at his dog that had taken his meat. He said to his dog, “I can’t whip thee or stone thee, but I can call thee a bad dog. Bad dog, bad dog!” Down the road people heard, “Mad dog — Mad dog!” The chase was on, a gun was heard and the dog was dead (Kn. 413). One bad word has hurt and killed many an innocent person. Jesus held that man would be held accountable for every careless word that was spoken on Judgment Day (Matthew 12:36).
We have all become comedians. Instead of laughing at ourselves, we laugh at others. When we become the object of laughter, we feel hurt. Glamorized humor becomes an insult. We must be careful in what we hand out because we never know when we shall be on the receiving end. When we use ridicule to demean others, we actually are condemning them and accuse them of the same sin we are guilty of (Romans 2:1-4). In the Book of Esther, Haman built gallows for Mordecai and ended up being hung himself. The God of Israel had a reason to give Moses the Commandment, “You shall not bear false witness” (Exodus 20:16). It was a very simple demand. Man was to be truthful with his words. False witnesses and liars were to be punished. It was a crime equal to murder. Jesus held that ridicule was more offensive than anger and murder. This was what Jesus said, “But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matthew 5:21-22). False witnesses led to the crucifixion of Jesus. False witnesses have ruined many lives. Even a little gossip can light a fire. A minister was accused of beating his wife for having attended an unworthy social function. In self-defense, he sent the following written statement to the News Paper that had printed the charge. “First of all, my wife did not attend any meeting. Secondly, she would not be found near such a place. Thirdly, I would never lay a hand on my wife. And fourthly, I am a bachelor” (Kn. 413). Reviling is a form of moral cannibalism.
We come to the real reason, why there is so much reviling in religion. One would think that religious people would be kind toward others and show greater restraint than those of the world. But that was never and never will be the case. It was not Jesus’ intention to cause divisions. Jesus’ followers have taken it upon themselves to stop others from serving Christ because these servants did not follow their guidelines or prescriptions. Thus, we engage each other because of Christ. Jesus had asked his followers, “Who do men say I am and who do you say I am?” It mattered then and it does today what Christ is to us. Are we those, who revile others because of Him or are we being slandered for following Him? Are we the accuser or the accused? There is a very fine line between being one or the other. Jesus’ own disciples found themselves accusing others and they asked to have them destroyed by fire. Jesus had countered by asking, “What kind of people are you and how long must I put up with you?” Yes, indeed, how long must Jesus put up with us? We too have divided ourselves over Christ. And there is no end of contention in sight.
Jesus, Himself, knew that His coming would cause division and strife. He told his disciples, “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his children; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me” (Matthew 10:21-22). Jesus’ followers were to expect to be called, “Beelzebub” like their Master was (Matthew 10:25). “Beelzebub” was a designation for Satan. The established religious leaders used it to single out Jesus and his followers. They were doing the demonic work, but they accused Jesus of it (John 8:42-47). In my own family, we had verbal conflicts. My father held that his German Church of God represented the genuine truth. My brother insisted that the Holy Spirit was most visible in the Pentecostal Churches. I was with the Baptists and in their eyes I had to be converted to their Church. Our mother had to side with the three of us. Some of my fellow Baptist did wait for being raptured some for a millennial kingdom and some could not make up their minds. This took place in North America. When we lived in Poland, Russia, and Germany, we were being ridiculed, persecuted and shunned by the established religions.
What were or are we contending over? What were and are some of the issues that set Christians apart? It is not the person of Christ or his redemptive work. Among the early Christians, their identity with Christ caused them to be dragged before religious and secular courts. They were slandered and persecuted because they were following Jesus of Nazareth. Today, we use the name of Jesus to slander others. I was invited to preach in two churches of the same denomination two miles apart. Together, they could afford a minister, but they were divided over what hymnal to choose. I had a young man interested in my Church until I read from the Revised Standard Version. To this man, The King James was the only authorized Bible. In my hometown in Winnipeg, several congregations began by splintering off one Canadian Church. They all spoke German and they sang from the same hymnals, read the same Lutheran version; but they came from different parts of Europe. They insisted that the way they were worshipping and running things were god-given. In reality, they were quarreling over smoking, dancing, drinking, watching television, and speaking English in Church. The irony was that most of these immigrants wanted to preserve their German language and their culture in Canada; yet, Germany did not want them within their borders. None of these self-imposed afflictions had anything to do with Christ.
In the United States, we take pride in religious diversity. But, do we also take pride in religious separation over issues, which add little, if anything, to being slandered for Christ. We cannot agree over what it means to stand with Jesus; yet, we want to define freedom of speech, freedom of religion – rather – freedom from religion, prayer in public schools, abortion, parenthood and a host of other topics. Again, none of these things make us uniquely Christian. In fact, non-Christians make better candidates for being Christ’s followers than we do. The things we do in the name of Jesus are unheard of among the heathen. It is because of our un-Christ-like behavior that God is being mocked among the unbelievers. We want to teach the world about human rights; yet, we cannot resolve our own prejudices and human poverty. Our leaders deliver great speeches of success and criticize other nations for their problems, but they do little to help our destitute and moral decline. It would be in their favor if they would take a hint from an aged minister who said, “The older he grew the less he spoke and the more he said” (Kn. 412). Our tongues, too, will sound better when they are rested, and even better when we have reflected on the things we have left undone; then, step up and dispense some grace.