After spending time looking on the internet at a examples of this I suddenly realized that I would not be able to put most of them in this article – they are too filled with profanity for me to do so. Where once we were referred to as bigots and homophobes – now we are being more and more referred to as ISIS, the Talaban, idiots, fools, morons, and a list that is honestly too long to reproduce. What is even more disturbing is that name calling that was once reserved to blogs and “comment” sections is now bleeding over into the mainstream. So how to we respond to these kind of attacks as believers?
Our first response should be to reserve any kind of response until we’ve examined Scripture – and I regret to say – at times our own past. Let me begin with Scripture first. Peter wrote to believers who were going through a fiery ordeal for their faith. Even though things are not great at the moment – and are probably going to get worse – I do not think we are to the point of being in a fiery ordeal yet. Here is what Peter said to those saints who faced difficult times.
1 Peter 4:12-16 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.
We should not be surprised at such things in a world that is turning from God and from what God has done through Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself warned that we were going to face what He faced if we were His disciples. We will be reviled for being named with Jesus – and with Biblical morality. Earlier in Peter’s letter he said to the saints that people would malign us because we would not run with them into the same excess of dissipation they ran into in life. What excess was this? Sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries are on that list. Stand for righteousness – and you will be persecuted. That is what Jesus promised in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. So first off, we should not be shocked this is happening.
Second, we should make sure that we are not suffering because we ourselves tout one aspect of righteousness – yet tolerate open sin in other areas of our lives. Translation: If you’ve been or are currently a name-caller when it comes to other people’s sin (by this I am not saying calling sin what God calls it) then you have some repentance that needs to take place first. We are called to love those who hate us – and we are called to love sinners. Engaging in a heart or mindset that insults others is NOT love. Oh how we need to be so careful about this especially in regard to names we use to refer to those who engage in sin. Be truthful, but in every way you can be respectful too.
Third, our response should be to rejoice. Most of us are not expecting that one. I don’t know about you – but at times I would prefer reading some imprecatory psalms instead of rejoicing that I are reviled for the name of Christ. By the way – that means I am sinning and need to repent. When the first disciples were beaten for their faith – and for continuing to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ – they rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for His name. The reproach and insult is not against us – and if we take it personally – it will not go well for us in our hearts (and honestly – it won’t go well for us in how we act or what we say either). The reproach is against Jesus Christ – and we should glory in being put in any association with Him.
Lastly, I would like to remind you that it is in moments like these that we have our greatest possibilities as those who preach the gospel. We have the opportunity to love when we are hated – to bless when we are cursed – to be kind when others are unkind to us. This is the essence of what Jesus did when He gave Himself on the cross. Oh that people would say, “You know, he’s the nicest, most loving, kind bigot I know.” Or someone would say, “For a guy who’s like ISIS, I am amazed that the only weapon he uses against me is kindness.” We are to react with love, forgiveness, kindness, mercy, and compassion – even on those who lack it in their dealings with us. Oh, and one more thing – when they want to know WHY we act this way – we share the gospel and point to the One Who did it best when He was treated the exact same way.