This brings us to what actually should identify us with Christ. To paraphrase Jesus, “Believe not in me for who I am but for what I am doing” (Jn. 10:38). Jesus saw Himself in the light of Isaiah 61:12. Luke summarized it as follows: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to announce deliverance to the prisoners of war and restore sight to the blind, I was sent to set free the oppressed, and proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (4:18-19). The same assignment went to Jesus’ followers. Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven” (Jn. 20:21-23). The world regards this lifestyle as weakness; Christ regarded this life style as strength. The world seeks to subdue their fellowmen; Christ uplifted man in a peaceful way. Life is more precious than the entire world and man gains nothing when he dies over perishable things. It is a puzzle to the world that more can be gained by turning the other cheek and walking the second mile than by resisting evil (Mt. 5:38-42). Being ridiculed is painful, but being dead is worse. In order to remain as witnesses in the world, Christ’s servants must choose the lesser of the two evils.
The first followers of Jesus intended to make Jerusalem their home base. Persecutions scattered them all over the Roman world. After James, the brother of John, was killed, the leaders realized that Christ’s purpose could not be served by merely dying (Ac. 12). At first, Peter, the Christian leader, argued with the leaders of the established religion and it earned him more jail time. It was when the Christians began to avoid conflict that their message began to spread. If there had been no persecution, they would have stayed in Jerusalem; they, too, would have become an establishment. The more these Christians were reviled, the more they multiplied. In a world where most people were subjected to forced servitude, the Christian life style made their life tolerable. By being passive and submissive; yet, faithful to their tasks, they also gained favor with their masters. Ultimately, this lifestyle replaced the lifestyle of the Roman Empire. And this took place in spite of the severest reviling and persecuting of the Christians by the Romans. Unfortunately, Christians, too, tasted the convenience of power and they began to enslave others. The sword was used to bring about reforms (Mt. 10:34).
Whenever Christians were, no longer, reviled and persecuted, they became a dying establishment. Instead of being ridiculed, they are doing the ridiculing. Christians are now speaking ill of each other. Christians have taught the world how to revile. Long, long ago, Plato observed, ”If people speak evil of you, so live that no one will believe them” (S.S. p. 74). How did Jesus put it some five hundred years later? “Let your light shine before men so that they can see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Mt. 5:6). We can be a scandal or a blessing. We can speak well of our brother or we can demean him; but, by doing so, we degrade ourselves. Now that Christianity is being attacked, Christians have again a chance to be revived and Christians, once more, can become a moral force in the world.
It is this light of Christ in the “makarioi” that frightens Satan’s children. Satan’s children will do more than ridicule and force Christ’s light into sanctuaries, where it cannot disclose their sins. Satan’s goal always has been to wipe the light of Christ off the earth, at least stop it from shinning. In our part of the world and everywhere else where “the name of Jesus” no longer is used to address God, Satan has succeeded. Those who still pray “in the name of Jesus” and make sinners feel guilty, are a threat to Satan’s children. The bearers of the light are not judging anyone; rather, it is the darkness that judges and condemns its own by hiding the truth from Satan’s subjects. The Christian God and Christ with his followers are the saviors and not the judges. Sin is Satan’s tool by which he, and not God, brought death into the world. Satan does not want the human life or the human soul return to God, the Creator. Satan is the father of lies. Satan is the father of doubts. Satan is the father of hate. Satan also is the father of fear. Satan disguises and falsifies the truth (II Cor. 11:14; Jn. 8:42-44).
The “makarioi’ are not only involved in a human struggle; but, they also are in a conflict between good and evil. Paul had served a system, which had him persecute Jesus and his followers and Paul came to this conclusion, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take a stand against the devils schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:10-12). Peter had a first hand encounter with the devil. Peter was not aware that he was doing the devil’s bidding (Mt. 16:22-23). Peter kept on in Satan’s path and Jesus warned Peter and prayed for him (Lk. 22:31). Peter was a recipient of the “B-Attitudes.” Peter precisely knew what Satan’s intentions were. Peter warned, “Be in control of yourself – stay alert. Your real enemy is the devil, he tip toes about quietly like a lion looking for a meal. You can fight him off if you hang on to your faith along with all your brothers in the world whose lives the devil threatens” (I Pe. 5:8-9; WC).
It is tragic, when one is being accused of doing what is wrong, and when one is being reviled for doing what is right. It should not be a surprise in a world where evil has become good and good evil (Is. 5:20). The people that are influenced by such a system do not know what they are doing (Lk. 23:34). Jesus excused them for the same reason. The authorities had kept the truth from the people and Jesus assigned the people’s evil deeds to them. Pilate, who was forced to have Jesus crucified was less guilty than the Jewish authorities (Jn. 19:11). The “blessed,” like their Lord, must practice mercy and forgive those that revile and abuse the name of their Lord and their own character. How did Jesus respond to his accusers?
Jesus said nothing to the Jewish authorities and to Pilate who could implicate Him. They put words in Jesus’ mouth. To the question, “Are you the Christ, the Son of God?” Jesus replied, “You say that I am.” The witnesses perverted Jesus’ reference to His own death to their precious temple, which Jesus would destroy and rebuild in three days. At the cross, Jesus prayed to the Father and they heard Jesus calling, “Elijah.” The most painful ridicule was, “If you are the Son of God, save yourself, come down from the cross and we will believe you.” All the Gospels recall that dark day when the people that wanted Jesus dead; except Pilate, who found no fault in the accused, shamed Jesus the Christ. Pilate was the only one who was close to the truth as to what Jesus had come to do, and that is why Pilate declared Jesus innocent (Jn. 18:38). Physically, Jesus had no chance, neither did the “makarioi” against insinuators fueled by hate. “The wages of sin is death” (Ro. 6:23). It is the devil that fuels hatred and Jesus called the devil a liar, a murderer and father of many children (Jn. 8:42-47). The only way, the followers of Jesus can survive and serve Christ in hostile territory is by not resisting evil and submitting to abuse (Mt. 5:39-42).
I am not writing to frighten us, but I am writing to warn us because seventy years ago, we paid the price with lives and property to our oppressors. My wife lost her father and two brothers and I lost a sister and a brother. We moved to the free world over sixty years ago and we felt secure in the arms of freedom. Now we, no longer, do feel safe in public or from our government. The persecutions of Christians outside the free world have topped any previous tribulation in history. The attempt to remove Christ and silence Christ’s message, in this country, by confining Christians to their sanctuaries is a sign of worse things to come. Satan lives among us; Satan’s deeds are visible in nature and in men, and Satan’s time is short (Rev. 12:9-12). We are all prone to be taken in by Satan, the deceiver. I know how easily one feels to get back at others for their thoughtless remarks that hurt us. My face was marred in a fire and a Christian, of all people, said to me, “If you put on a set of horns, you look like the devil.” Another Christian, in fact several said, “If you really had faith, God would restore you.” I, too, had to remove the log from in front of my eyes and forgive them for their splinters. Wiping off the dust is much easier than removing beams or logs (Mt. 7:1-6).
Think about this incident. An Oriental was putting rice on his ancestor’s grave. Nearby, an American was placing flowers on his loved one’s grave. The American mocked the Oriental saying, “When will your ancestor come and eat the rice?” “Same time yours will come and smell the flowers,” was the reply. It is a bit late to honor our departed, but it is not too late for the living to stop reviling. Humiliating is far more painful, than physical affliction. Humiliation is a shameful curse. One has to be a “makarioi” to endure humiliation and in spite of humiliation to remain graceful.