“How blest you are, when you suffer insults and persecution and every kind of calumny for My sake. Accept it with gladness and exultation, for you have a rich reward in heaven; in the same way they persecuted the prophets before you.”
Jesus isn’t saying that we should provoke unbelievers into persecuting us. We are not to seek “every kind of calumny” but to “accept it with gladness and exultation” when it comes our way, as it is bound to now and again. Most of the time the insults prove to be remarks against our God and Savior not against us. Unbelievers usually think Christians are stupid, naive, or at our worst — narrow minded.
More likely Jesus is saying that a natural outcome of being a Christian is insult and persecution because: we are salt; salt stings the wounds. We are light; light exposes the dark. No one enjoys pain; no one who remains in sin wants to come into the light and be exposed. Therefore, a natural consequence of living for Christ is suffering abuse from those who do not believe. Accept it, but don’t deliberately seek it. Jesus says that is unnecessary for “in the same way they persecuted the prophets before you.”
Suffering for Christ is most evident in countries like China, where Christians are actively abused. These Christians “have a rich reward in heaven.” Those of us who will never suffer this kind of “calumny” must pray for those Christians who do. We must remember that they are blessed beyond our understanding. They are truly salt and light.
Paul says, “Therefore accept one another;” and tells us the rationale for doing this, adding: “just as the Messiah accepts you, to the glory of God.”
God gives you both “endurance and encouragement” so that He “allows you to live in harmony with one another.” (Romans 15: 4) He gives you these gifts in order that you are able to “glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15: 6) And what imputes glory to God? Lo and behold, what brings glory to God is “a united mind and voice.”
Notice it is God who “allows” us to live in harmony; He provides “endurance and encouragement” so that we are able to be “united” in both “mind and voice.” Much of this endurance and encouragement are given to us through “whatever was written in the past…for our instruction.” Of course, the main source of this endurance and encouragement is directly from God, the Holy Spirit who is dwelling within us, working His will through us.
Paul’s “therefore” relates back to his argument that unity among Christians brings glory to God the Father. This is Paul’s rationale for having “a united mind and voice.” As we show the world our unity, God is glorified. Unfortunately, Christians are fragmented into so many denominations with some so adamant that their way is the only way, unbelievers are wary and sometimes downright terrified of all Christians.
Therefore, Paul begs us to live in harmony with one another so that we may glorify God, especially among unbelievers.
Paul commands you to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.” (Philippians 2: 12 – 13)
God works in you because His Holy Spirit dwells within you as within a temple. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Because your body is God’s dwelling place, how can you unite yourself with those who hate God? You can’t. For what you love, that person despises.
Paul says not to be yoked with unbelievers for it is an uneven bonding. “Don’t you know,” says Paul, “that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you are bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6: 19 – 20)
Seek someone within the body of Christ to join with you, knowing that God is your primary focus, that He strengthens your relationship and literally makes it holy.
Yoked with a believer, you know that both of you have God at work within “to desire and to work out His good purpose” for your lives. You both must continue to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” lest you fall away from one another, fall into lust for another, and dishonorably into unfaithfulness and adultery.
But thanks be to God, you are not one to fall away. You are the Lord’s and His power is at work within you. Rely upon Him; He takes you to the prize — a holy relationship with another Christian.