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Sermon on the Mount
“Harassment: The Blessing No One Wants”
Tonight we’re finishing the beatitudes section in our Sermon on the Mount series. The message we’ll be looking at is how we are to handle being harassed or persecuted for our faith. It’s entitled, “Harassment: The Blessing No One Wants.”
One of the major causes of unhappiness is trying to be like everybody else. There’s a myth that says, “In order to be happy we must be approved by others.” But that doesn’t work because you can’t please everyone.
Jesus was a realist, that is, He was brutally honest, especially about what it took to be disciples. He said those who wanted to follow Him were to take up their cross and follow Him daily. They were to die to everything the world says is important in order to be called a child of God.
In our passage Jesus says that if we follow Him, people aren’t going to like us much. He said, “Guess what; if they hated me, they’re going to hate you too.” And when we start to live by the beatitudes we’ve been studying, then we can expect harassment as a result, which is exactly what He said in this last beatitude.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10 NKJV)
And here’s the kicker, just so we don’t miss what He said, He repeats it twice and the second time with greater emphasis.
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12 NKJV)
Jesus gives more space to this last beatitude than any of the others. While each is vital, this last one Jesus not only goes a little more in detail, but He personalizes it as well by using the personal pronoun, “you.”
In each of the previous beatitudes Jesus deals with the Christian character, but not in this last one. In this last one He sums up the character of the world and how it feels about those who are Jesus’s followers, those who follow the first seven beatitudes.
Basically Jesus is saying, “Happy are those who handle rejection and harassment. Blessed are those whose beliefs are so strong they can withstand the enemy’s attacks as a result of their beliefs.”
Tonight I’d like to look at our response to harassment. But before I do, I’d like us to notice that this is not some fairy tale, but a reality. It isn’t “if” but “when.” “When they revile and persecute you.” So we need to be prepared for this inevitability.
The world is getting more and more hostile to Christians, the Christian faith and belief. Tolerance is no longer a two way street in our country or around the world. Instead Christians are treated with scorn and hostility.
The reason is found when Jesus said it would happen for His sake.
Before I continue, there’s something that needs to be understood and stated. Some people truly are martyrs for their faith, while others are martyrs because they bring it on themselves through their own actions, not because they are believers. They’re irritating, stubborn, and obnoxious. They are those who are self-righteous about their faith. And so when they complain about being persecuted, understand they’re not being persecuted for their faith, but rather because they’re jerks.
Jesus gives us the reason for our persecution.
“A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20 NKJV)
The reason for our being harassed and persecuted is because it’s our being like Jesus. The media is merciless when it comes to putting down and attacking Christians at every opportunity, while saying little if anything about the atrocities done by other religions, especially against Christians. But this really shouldn’t surprise us.
The world crucified Jesus, and the world would still crucify Him today. The world doesn’t like Jesus, therefore the world won’t like us, especially when we shine Jesus through our lives and speak of His love, grace, mercy, and coming Judgment.
Darkness can’t stand the light, and Jesus is the light of the world. And the darker the world gets, the more it hates the light of God shining through us, not to mention shining down and exposing its evil.
The more like Jesus we become through reading God’s word, prayer, and doing what Jesus would do, the more people are not going to like us. The Apostle Paul said,
“Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12 NIV)
To live a godly life means we will bring upon ourselves persecution and harassment. The world will have a field day, because it cannot stand those who are opposed to it. Jesus didn’t fit into the world’s mold. He wouldn’t do what the religious leaders wanted Him to do. He wouldn’t compromise or conform. So that left them with two options: follow Him or kill Him. So they killed Him.
If we are Jesus’ disciples, if we’re living godly lives in this ungodly world, then we can expect persecution. If we’re not, then we best check ourselves and see if we’ve made a wrong turn towards the world and away from Jesus.
How Should We Respond To Harassment?
1. Recognize the Source
“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12 NLT)
God is the devil’s enemy, but since he can’t get at God, he’s going to do the next best thing; he’s going to go after God’s kids, that is, you and me. What this means is that the person harassing us isn’t really our harasser. This is a spiritual battle and our harasser is the devil and his demons.
2. Refuse to Retaliate
“Repay no one evil for evil … Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:17,19 NKJV)
The person who’s attacking is simply a pawn, and has no idea Satan is using them.
In Matthew 5:11 Jesus lists three types of harassments we’ll receive.
• Insults or reviling, which is when people dishonor, discredit, or say derogatory things about us because we believe in Jesus.
• Persecution, which is mistreatment for being a Christian
• Lies, which are false statements made about us by deceit or deception.
The world loves to find fault with Christians. When a Christian does something wrong, he or she gets front-page headlines, while everyone else gets a free pass. But as Christians we should be held to a higher standard, because we have Jesus living inside of us.
The world will dissect every little word and action until they find something wrong, and if they can’t then they’ll make up something, insult, persecute, or lie about us.
Consider Jesus, they accused Him of being a drunk because He went into the homes of those they considered sinners. They called Him a glutton and wine bibber, which in today’s language would be something like, “party animal.” But Jesus never retaliated back, and neither should we, which leads us to number three.
3. Respond Positively
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21 NKJV)
When we’re being harassed or persecuted for our faith, this is the last thought that’s going through our minds. Rather it’s how can we get back at them, hurt them as they hurt us. But the best way to quite the critics is don’t let them latch onto anything, and second don’t strike back. Love them instead, because you’ll never get ahead by trying to get even.
How can we positively respond? The answer lies in Matthew 5:44, “Love your enemies and pray for those who despitefully use you.” Now this isn’t easy, but it’s exactly what Jesus did. So don’t react in kind, but rather respond positively to their negativity. When people put you down, build them up. When people hassle you, be nice in return.
The moment we retaliate we’re no longer in control. When someone gets our goat they’ve gained the upper hand. We can only control how we respond, so let’s take the high road like Jesus. Love and pray for them.
The fourth way we need to respond to harassment or persecution is to
4. Rejoice Over It
Jesus said that when others revile, insult, persecute, or lie about us we should rejoice and be exceedingly glad. Jesus isn’t saying rejoice in the pain, but rather rejoice that we’ve been found worthy to suffer for His name’s sake. So instead of complaining, let’s celebrate.
A. God’s Spirit is Present
“If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” (1 Peter 4:14 NIV)
When people put us down it’s because they can see Jesus in us, but if we’re not being persecuted then we need to ask if anybody even knows that we’re Christians.
John Wesley was riding to his next preaching gig when it suddenly dawned on him that he hadn’t been slandered or harassed for at least a week. Instead of celebrating he prayed that God would forgive him. As he was going through the next town a person threw a rock at him, and he immediately started to give thanks and glorify God.
Think of it this way, have you ever walked into a totally dark room, and then all of a sudden a bright light is shined in your face? You wince and the brightness! Jesus is the light of the world, and the darkness of the world hated the light and put the Light of God to death. But the Light of God rose from the dead and His light now shines through all who believe.
If we’re harassed because of our faith, then Jesus says we’re blessed, because God’s spirit resides within us. Unfortunately today we’ve got a lot of Lady Clairol Christians, because only God knows for sure, no one else can tell. They’re secret agent Christians. They may have churchianity, but not Christianity. They may have religion, but not a relationship.
As the saying goes, “If they outlawed Christianity, would there be enough evidence to convict us?” If we were to be put on trial for being a Christian, could they prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt, or would they only have circumstantial evidence?
B. God Can Trust Us
“So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:41 NKJV)
In America we know very little about persecution. In other countries Christians are being imprisoned, tortured, maimed and put to death for their faith. Right now we’re just harassed.
We need to know that it’s a privilege to die for Jesus, and when we’re harassed and persecuted it means that God knows He can trust us with what we’re going to suffer.
C. Persecution is Only Temporary
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (2 Corinthians 4:17 NKJV)
Paul tells us not to look at the things we can see, but for those things we cannot see, that is, what awaits us once this life is over, which is heaven and the presence of our heavenly Father. The things we can see are only temporary, while the unseen is eternal.
Paul possessed an eternal perspective knowing that he would only live for so long upon this earth, but he’d be spending an eternity in heaven.
We need to get that eternal perspective knowing that the stuff we desire in this world really isn’t going to last, but be burned in the end. What’s is going to last, however, is how we’ve used what God has so graciously given to us while we are here. We need to start living our days for what really counts in the end.
This leads me to our fifth point about how to handle harassment.
5. Remember The Reward
Jesus said that we’re to rejoice and be glad for great is our reward, Matthew 5:12. There are special honors for those who experience persecution for their faith. Jesus said we’d be in good company: “For so they persecuted the prophet which were before you.”
Jesus tells us that there will be a great reward for those who handle harassment with the right attitude. The Apostle Paul said,
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:17 NIV)
Paul says that if we share in His suffering, then we’ll also share in His glory. Now no one really knows what this glory entails, but it’s probably better than what we could imagine.
6. Remaining Faithful
“So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.” (1 Peter 4:19 NLT)
To suffer according to God’s will isn’t something that’s often seen. Instead we hear that God wants us healthy and wealthy, and if we’re not then we must be out of God’s will. But the Bible clearly states that sometimes suffering is God’s will.
The Apostle Paul was remarkable if not unstoppable. When he tells the church he’s going to Jerusalem they beg him not to go because people there wanted to kill him. He basically said, “So what, I’ve got to die sometime.” (Acts 21:12-13 paraphrased)
What does it take to stop us? What’s our faith costing us? What will it take for us to deny Him? In other countries believers are being put to death for their faith, but for us if it’s inconvenient then we’re out of there.
How may people know you’re a Christian? Not how many know you go to church, but how many know you’re a fully devoted and sold out follower of Jesus Christ?
There was an old missionary who spent his life in Africa. He lost his wife and children to malaria, and spent 60 years ministering with no one really knowing except those he was ministering to.
His body finally gave out and so he came back to the states. On the same plane was Eisenhower. It was right after WWII. When the airplane landed Eisenhower walked out to a red carpet gala, with bands, confetti, and signs and shouts of “Welcome home Ike.”
But the missionary had to leave out the rear of the plane, and there was no one there to greet him. Being discouraged thinking that no one even cared, the Lord said, “But son, you’re not home yet.”
What can you do?
• Commit your life to Jesus Christ and His calling.
• Get baptized, which is nothing more than an outwards sign of an inward doing. It’s telling to world that you’re a believer and you’re not ashamed of being one.
o A little boy came to the pastor and said he wanted to get “advertised.” That’s what Baptism is; it’s advertising that you’re a believer in Jesus Christ. (There’s a Pot Luck and Baptism on Mother’s day, May 8th)
• Finally, get involved. Don’t sit on the sidelines any longer.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study