God physically blessed the Israelites, in the Promised Land in Canaan. The Israelites were expected to obey God’s statutes, given to them, through Moses. If they deviated from those laws, they would receive curses, rather than blessings. Comfort was as accessible as obeying God’s laws. The same applies to nonChristians, today.
However, the opposite is true of Christians, called to follow Jesus. A true Christian cannot be loved and treated well, in this world. Everything regarded as blessings to the Israelites should, actually, be treated as bothersome, in this world. Jesus highlighted this reality during His introductory Sermon on the Mount.
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12 KJV).
Jesus pronounced a barometer of one’s Christian conduct. As long as accepted as a great man of God, in this world, one would be off the mark. Praises from some quarters should not bring gladness to the person concerned. Jesus said one rejoices, only when treated badly.
Of course, this does not imply open celebration, like a lunatic, but rejoicing in the Spirit, aware of God’s approval. Truthful information does not attract bad feelings. This agrees with Confucius: “If you look into your own heart, and you find nothing wrong there, what is there to worry about: What’s there to fear?”
The gladness does not suggest approval of the mockers, necessarily. But it suggests the correctness of what one does or says but being deemed unacceptable. As long as widely acceptable, one would be off the mark. Jesus could not have been a liar, considering that He was mocked, even by His co-accused, on the cross.
“Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me”(John 15:20-21 NIV).
The appetite for endorsement by those of this world does not necessarily carry God’s approval. This does not take away the existence of renowned and prosperous preachers across the world. Some people may not even realize that some Christian leaders are more idolized than Jesus. Rarely do people realize that the pampering of praises to their pastor would be more than the pampering accorded to Jesus.
Among many Christians, there is an obsession that the only way to show respect to Jesus is by showing respect to one’s pastor. It is, probably, impossible to remove those people from such tomfoolery. Hence, Jesus said many would come claiming to be the Christ, thereby deceiving many (Matthew 24:6). The most difficult thing in this world can be to help a person realize that he/she would be deceived.
True followers of Jesus can be identified by being treated badly. At one stage, the apostles were brought to the Sanhedrin and flogged. But instead of expressing bitterness for being flogged, unjustly, they rejoiced, because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name (Acts 5:40-41).
When harbouring bitterness for being treated unfairly, one would not be different from his/her persecutors. With the chance to be in the persecutor’s position, the person would seek to revenge. This is just as all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Hence, “Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’” (Matthew 5:44).
A true Christian does not seek approval from humans. He seeks God’s approval, through Jesus Christ, only. He rejoices, as long as he would be opposed and mocked for standing up for the truth. However, standing up for God should not necessarily be regarded as a chore, for the purpose of inducing persecution. A true Christian is a peace-maker, always pursuing peace earnestly.
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”(1 Peter 3:9-13).
The apostle Paul said a Christian is the one who would have died in Christ (Romans 6:6-7). What this implies is that what is considered as bothersome cannot be regarded as bothersome to true Christians. What causes those in this world to be comfortable is not always what causes Christians to be comfortable.
One cannot be a Christian when treated better than Jesus was treated. A person with the truth carries no appetite for respect. A truthful person is always aware of possible resistance from those unused to hearing the truth. The shock absorber of a Christian when facing stern opposition for telling the truth is Jesus.
Truth is the most unpopular thing in this world. It takes only courageous people to stand for the truth. Cowards would rather resort to popular and acceptable renditions, rather than confront the truth. This is understandable. Jesus never promised that truth would be commonly accepted, in this world.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it. Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit, you will recognize them.
“Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit, you will recognize them”(Matthew 7:13-20 NIV).
The fruits are the results of what comes out at the end. The people claiming to be blessed because of the popularity of their gospel are the opposite of good fruit. Their gospel would be different from the gospel of Jesus Christ. The worst craze is to fail to recognize the difference, thereby, falling for the deception.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”(Matthew 7:21-23 NIV).
Jesus’ teachings represent the co-essential doctrines of the Christian faith. There cannot be any true Christian claiming not to follow Christian requirements. Jesus’ words are standard. Those who hate other people for projecting Jesus’ truth would be opposing Jesus, whose words remain standard in Christianity.
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash”(Matthew 7:24-27 NIV).
What appears as the only reason for failure to put Jesus’ words into practice, is the comfort, found in falsehoods. The person would be assuming that miracles signify being on the Lord’s side. This is based on the assumption that the purpose of Jesus was to perform miracles and physical blessings only. Therefore, where ever Jesus talked about rejoicing in persecution, the person became confused.
But more so, the miracle performer would have taken the position of Jesus. The person having received miraculous healing cannot read the Bible, except to follow everything said by the miracle performer. Jesus said those miracle performers would be using the name of Jesus in vain and would deceive many.
The most frightening thing is the statement surmising the deception of many. The more the number of people who would be deceived, the more the number is multiplied. People prefer associating with large numbers. Small numbers are generally not attractive but are commonly mocked and despised. “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14 NIV).
False gospel preachers were identified as early as the time of the apostles. Paul faced a sizable number of such deceivers. The attraction to physical wealth was the actual cause, just as wealth appears to be the real cause of Christian distortion, even in our time. The fact that there might not be many preachers highlighting this; should not cause sincere believers to ignore and leave the pastor unchallenged. The responsibility lies with the person hearing the truth, at any given time.
“If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt minds, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is a great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (1 Timothy 6:3-7 NIV).
The majority of people are deaf or blind to the fact that: “we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (1 Timothy 6:7 NIV). Those of us, who have lived longer in this life, know of very influential people who passed on, leaving their possessions, without proper management. Their good living may only be in the history books, but without, necessarily, impacting those of today.
Another axiomatic law in this world suggests that: Anything that a person hates is what rules over him. Black people hate being mocked for being black, by those of other races. However, the more those blacks pronounce their hatred of being mocked for being black, the more they remain in mockery.
If being black is considered a curse, in this world, the curse is tied to hating being black. Nothing else keeps black people under white subjugation, except hating being black. Grudgingly, some blacks are known to declare loving being black and trying to recruit others against “white supremacists”. But the origin would be the hatred of being black, rather than the behaviour of those who would be perceived as racists.
There is truth in that some whites are racists. But the effect of racial connotation is a button, affecting those who hate being black. Anything considered as offensive results from one’s inability to confront what is hated or feared. It is only the hated or feared things that control one’s conduct. It takes a person with a pure heart not to be affected by such things.
Any kind of mockery affects those with knowledge deficiency. Jesus could not be affected by those who mocked him at the cross, because Jesus was rich with knowledge. He could understand the behaviour of His mockers, but those mockers could not understand Him. This is why happy people are described as able to experience anything, in this life.
A person, who takes mockery as a blessing, is different from one regarding respect as a blessing. A respected person fears the possibility of being disrespected, at some point. This is different from a disrespected person who goes freely, without being concerned about being disrespected. This describes a Christian who appreciates the significance of loving and praying for his/her enemies.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. Most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope, in a simple conversational tone.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99