Text: Matthew 5:10-12, Philippians 1:27-30, 2 Timothy 3:10-17, 1 Peter 1:6-7
The internet is not for the faint of heart. Maybe you’ve noticed this, too. Behind the protection of a computer screen and social media, people lose their inhibitions and speak with a recklessness they wouldn’t otherwise. Strangers, acquaintances, and even friends launch virtual grenades that leave behind very real wounds.
I learned this lesson the hard way, soon after I started writing. Each week, I poured my heart and soul into words about Jesus, hoping to build up my readers while challenging them in their faith. I studied and prayed and edited and dreamed, and then, I released my ideas into the world. I remember hitting the “publish” button one of those first very times and, thirty minutes later, a comment appeared from one of my precious readers: “The author sounded whiney.”
Come to find out, this would be one of the gentler comments in a string of skin-thickening insults. It was my cold-splash initiation into the world of writing online, a world that is sometimes beautiful and sometimes brutal.
These experiences have taught me a lot over the years, but one lesson always stands out. When someone insults you, there is a subtle temptation lurking just behind it: to tear your critic down in the form of sympathy. “He is probably just a sad person,” or “Hurt people hurt people,” or “She’s just jealous.” I have said all of these things and more, and some of those assessments might even be true. But Jesus’ response to insults looks radically different.
In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus doesn’t focus on His critics’ motives. Instead, He points to the kingdom of God: “You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (vv. 11-12).
It doesn’t matter how you were brought low—you meek, you downtrodden, you spiritual misfits—because God works wonders among the lowly. If people slander you or insult you because of Christ’s name, you don’t have to cower and you don’t have to flee, because the other side of death is always, always resurrection. Not around the shame, but through it.
This, in many ways, is the entire message of the Beatitudes.
But the news gets even better. This Kingdom isn’t some far-off reality. We’re tasting it now. The blessing is already here. We rejoice, not because the reward is distant, but because it’s near. Amidst the insults, the name-calling, the persecution and the slander, God does some of His very best work. He heals. He humbles. He overcomes strongholds. He seizes our fragile idols and shatters them on the ground. He takes our shame and our humiliation and He makes them submit to His reign. And that, my friends, is why we rejoice.
We don’t have to be afraid. We don’t have to feel threatened or timid about the truth, as if we have to defend it, or ourselves, to keep our joy. The Beatitudes remind us that God’s upside down Kingdom doesn’t work that way. God’s ways are higher than our ways, and our call is to bear witness to that truth.
We don’t have to let the fear of insult or persecution sway us from obedience. Instead, we can step into it with confidence, knowing God’s good plans for the persecuted. Even in our hurt and shame, the Kingdom is breaking in, and our lives are a big, bright flashing signpost beckoning the world to Him.
Sharon Hodde Miller is a writer, speaker, pastor’s wife, and mom of two boys. She is a regular contributor to Christianity Today and recently completed her Ph.D, which focused on cultivating the gifts of women in the church.