“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (Matthew 5:11, NIV)
In reading the Beatitudes originating from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12), one cannot help but feel uplifted in the full protection of the Spirit. Jesus says we are Blessed, that we will receive the Kingdom of Heaven, that we, the meek, will inherit the earth. Unfortunately, it is too easy to feel comfortable and cozy when hearing these words, when it really is a call to specific, challenging actions.
Matt. 5:11 in particular sticks out to me because it speaks to the dangers that exist not only for those that stand up for their beliefs, but also for those that attack others for not conforming to their interpretation.
This particular verse is often used as a shield for people of faith, in that it promises a great “reward in heaven” (Matt. 5:12) for those that are insulted, persecuted, and have all kinds of evil said about them solely because of their faith.
However, it is important to note that there is a second way to read this verse.
It is equally, if not more, dangerous when people of faith because of me insult, persecute, and say all kinds of evil about their neighbor. The radical calls of Jesus to be poor in spirit (Matt. 5:3), hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt. 5:6), merciful (Matt. 5:7), and pure in heart (Matt. 5:8), do not include attacking your neighbor when your neighbor’s views do not match your own.
We see this dichotomy particularly present in our current political discourse. When it is acceptable for a potential Presidential Candidate, as speaking as a man of God, to question the faith of the President, there is a disconnect with the message that Jesus was spreading. Apologies made for particular comments aside, the culture persists that it is ok to attack your neighbor (and political opponent) for not conforming to your specific brand of Christianity.
Fortunately, people are beginning to wake up to the hypocrisy that exists in professing your faith and then attacking your neighbor, but we still have a long ways to go to where fellow Christians are not “insulting, persecuting, and falsely say[ing] all kinds of evil against you because of me.”(Matt. 5:11)