“If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” (1 Peter 4:14)
Have you ever faced persecution? You may think not, if you’ve never been tortured, or cut off by your family, or lost custody of your children, or been fired from your job, or threatened with death for refusing to recant your faith. These are the kinds of experiences that many of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world endure for following Christ. However, persecution comes in many forms and doesn’t necessarily involve the loss of physical well-being, family ties, employment, life or indeed anything tangible. No, merely losing face by being insulted for the name of Christ counts. And brings with it the promise of a wonderful blessing too.
This is the message we get from the Apostle Peter’s first letter, written to Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor (an area comprising of most of modern-day Turkey). “Beloved”, he writes, “do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” (4:12-13). In referring to Christ’s sufferings, we might assume Peter has in mind the severe beatings and floggings, the crown of thorns embedded into his head, or his brutal execution on a cross. But he illustrates his point with an example of persecution in one of its mildest forms; being “insulted for the name of Christ.”
Perhaps you’ve had to endure insults, ridicule, derision or alienation simply for being a believer in and follower of Jesus Christ. This might have come at work from your boss and colleagues, or when out with your friends, or from members of your own family, or from neighbours. Your experience may not have been particularly severe or had much – if any – lasting impact on you. For others, though, insults and being sidelined by peers can be really painful and tough to deal with. Either way, Peter would say don’t be surprised at this fiery trial, as though something strange were happening to you. Earlier in the letter, he reminds Christians that we’re “sojourners and exiles” (2:11). In other words, as believers in Christ, we’re refugees whose true citizenship is in heaven. As such, we should expect strange and unfair treatment at times.
But when we do find ourselves insulted for the name of our Lord and Saviour, we’re promised a blessing from heaven, “because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” We don’t have to be beaten, flogged, threatened, spat at or even intimidated to receive this blessing. No, merely being insulted for the name of Christ is sufficient. This was Stephen’s experience when brought before the Jewish Council and confronted with all manner of insults and false accusations. Luke tells us that “gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15). Clearly, the Spirit of glory and of God was resting on Stephen.
Notice, however, that this blessing is promised only to those who are insulted “for the name of Christ.” We’re not promised that the Spirit of glory and of God will rest on us if we’re rude, unkind, insensitive, harsh, judgmental, interfere in other people’s business, relentlessly bible-bash friends, or spend all our time at work sharing the gospel instead of being a loyal and hardworking employee. As Peter puts it, “let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet it anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name” (1 Peter 4:15-16).
If you’re going to be insulted this week, let it be for being truly Christlike in everything you say and do. For living a godly life that overflows with the fruit of the Spirit and demonstrates the reality of Christ in you. For being a good employee, a good neighbour, a good citizen, a good friend, a good family member. For living such good lives amongst those who don’t know Christ, that though they might accuse you of doing wrong they may see your good deeds and glorify God (1 Peter 2:12). Get insulted for living like that and you are richly blessed.