“Blessed [morally courageous and spiritually alive with life-joy in God’s goodness] are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil things against you because of [your association with] me. Be glad and exceedingly joyful, for your reward in heaven is great [absolutely inexhaustible]; for in this same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11, AMP).
Sitting by the roadside, near the city gate of Enaim, she waited. Her patience had grown weary. Wrapped in a beautiful, silky veil, her eyes keenly watched for the man she had dared believed. The way was quiet, but soon it would be bustling from the men returning from sheep shearing. And, if she remembered one thing about her father-in-law, he would need to relax after a long day of working. Yes, she remembered quite well is antics and sexual desire. Judah would be in need of comfort tonight.
The warm breeze seemed to calm her racing heart. It was all she could do to sit patiently for his arrival. Years of watching her late husband’s family work benefited her while she sat. Like clockwork, Judah would be visiting his friend, Hirah, and the men would be out looking for release.
Watching the path, the hardness in her heart seemed to ice further. Used and cast aside, Tamar’s anger burned a hole through her spirit. Judah had hurled her back to her family’s house, literally belittling and insulting her in the community. Repulsion rippled through her heart as she recalled the night she had spent with Onan. He was a hateful and nasty man. Her husband, Er, had been just has evil. When Er died, Judah sent Onan to sleep with her as his “duty.” She held back retching just thinking of that night.
Tamar knew the Lord took Onan as well; both men were evil and she had not minded at all when God struck them dead. After Onan’s death, Judah had promised her the youngest of his son’s, Shelah, but failed to acknowledge her when the young man was of age. She had been sent home, violated and disgraced. But now, now she would have her vengeance. Her face – stone cold – glared down the road for the man that had tossed her aside and insulted her being. Tamar waited for Judah.Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines an insult as to behave with pride or arrogance; to treat with insolence, indignity, or contempt; to affect offensively or damagingly. The first seven Beatitudes describe the integrity of a believer in Christ. Ostracism, persecution, and rejections are signs of a believer in Christ as are being poor in spirit or merciful. Christians should not be surprised when faced with persecution, but rather surprised when there is none. “Therefore, if a person who claims to follow Christ never experiences any persecution at all, it may be reasonably asked if he/she is really a Christian.”2
Kent Hughes in his book, The Sermon on the Mount, poses a few questions for believers, “If we evangelicals have never experienced rejection for the sake of the kingdom, are we citizens of the kingdom? If we have not been out of step with the surrounding culture and suffered its disapproval because we practice the ethics of God’s children, are we truly God’s children?”2 These are difficult questions to ask of ourselves.
The early church followers suffered persecution and they understood Christ’s words. As in the previous chapter with Blandina, persecution may involve physical pain, emotional trauma, or insults. Insults are extremely painful. Psalm 69:20 agrees, “Reproach and insults have broken my heart and I am so sick. I looked for sympathy, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none.”
Insults may come for a variety of reasons. Obviously wrong choices and bad behavior top the list of verbal insults, but Christians are to behave in a different light. When we are insulted for our faith or Christ-like behavior, we are to consider ourselves blessed, joyful, and exceedingly glad. I will tell you – in my own personal experience – blessings, joy, and gladness were not what came up out of my spirit from receiving insults and false accusations. The Lord has to come quickly and deal with my heart when these situations arise in my life. I have a tendency to hold onto insults, roll them around in my head for a while, and think on the situation. Waves of emotions come from my heart from sadness to anger to frustration, but not gladness, joy, and blessings. Just like you, I am walking this faith day-by-day. I have to pray through confrontations just like every Christian, but it is extremely painful to experience insult after insult. This, my sweet sister in Christ, is where knowing who you are in Jesus trumps all other verbiage.
Knowing who I am in Christ gives me great joy. Although I may be laughed at for my antiquated ways or modesty, I choose to glorify God. My identity is in His Word, not the worlds. Although I hold people accountable for their actions and they do not like it, I choose to stand on the Word of God. My self-worth is not in what others think of me, but what my Father thinks of me. Although I may be called names for believing God’s Word, my confidence rests in Jesus Christ alone. I know I am a daughter of a King, righteous through Jesus of Nazareth, and loved by the Great I AM!
Christians can be insulted for a variety of reasons. Believers need to be well aware of the words they speak and to whom they speak too. I know many are filled with good intentions, but at times, we may bring these insults on ourselves, “He who corrects and instructs a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, and he who rebukes a wicked man gets insults for himself” (Proverbs 9:7). Jesus of Nazareth said, “Do not give that which is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, for they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces (Matthew 7:6). Knowing your identity is in Christ will also control your heart, thoughts, and words to those you speak with. Many feel they need to speak every thought that comes to their mind, but sometimes, we need to keep our opinions to ourselves. “The [arrogant] fool’s anger is quickly known [because he lacks self-control and common sense], but a prudent man ignores an insult” (Proverbs 12:16).
I think one of the most challenging verses the Lord spoke in His sermon is, “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person [who insults you or violates your rights]; but whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other toward him also [simply ignore insignificant insults or trivial losses and do not bother to retaliate – maintain your dignity, your self-respect, your poise]” (Matthew 5:39). Christ encourages His followers to not allow insults and trivial matters to infiltrate hearts. I understand this is difficult, especially if the insults come from those closest to us, other Christians, or respected people. Again, a person who knows who they are in Christ and His Words will be able to discern an “insignificant insult or trivial loss.” If we continue to soak and saturate our hearts with every hurtful word spoken by others, we will never reach our full potential in Christ.
Tamar’s testimony is written in the Old Testament. It was written during a time when great shame had left her in a very delicate situation. She disguised herself as a prostitute to seduce her father-in-law and further her justice. He had cast her aside and treated her as a harlot, so she was going to use this to her advantage.
As the story unfolds, a beautiful veiled woman seduces Judah. Giving his signet seal, cord, and staff to ensure payment, Judah has sexual relations with a woman he assumes is a prostitute. It would be as if a man today gave his social security card, driver’s license, and debt card with pin number to an unknown prostitute for just a quick release of tension. Judah’s sexual desires over took him.
Waking up alone, Judah returns to make good on his payment to the prostitute. But, embarrassed as he was, Judah sends his friend to give the woman the promised goat. The prostitute is nowhere to be found. Judah responds to the shameful events, “Let her keep the things for herself, otherwise we will be a laughingstock. After all, I sent this young goat, but you did not find her” (Genesis 38:23).
A pitiful display, Judah’s shame sends another man in his place and then seems to shrug his should with “O well, we tried to give her the goat.” Little did he know in three months, Tamar would present herself before him, pregnant with his children, holding his prized possessions. Shamed and insulted Tamar was redeemed with Judah exclaiming, “She is more righteous than I.”
Although Tamar took matters into her own hands, believers today are to rely on Christ’s words. I understand human nature has a desire to vindicate oneself, to justify a matter, and settle arguments, but our Lord was intentional with His words and so is God’s Word:
“So I am well pleased with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, and with difficulties, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong [truly able, truly powerful, truly drawing with God’s strength]” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
“While being reviled and insulted, He did not revile or insult in return; while suffering, He made no threats [of vengeance], but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges fairly” (1 Peter 2:23).
“Finally, all of you be like-minded [united in spirit], sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted [courteous and compassionate toward each other as members of one household], and humble in spirit; and never return evil for evil or insult for insult [avoid scolding, berating, and any kind of abuse], but on the contrary, give a blessing [pray for one another’s well-being, contentment, and protection]; for you have been called for this very purpose, that you might inherit a blessing [from God that brings well-being, happiness, and protection]. For, ‘The one who wants to enjoy life and see good days [good—whether apparent or not], Must keep his tongue free from evil and his lips from speaking guile (treachery, deceit). He must turn away from wickedness and do what is right. He must search for peace [with God, with self, with others] and pursue it eagerly [actively—not merely desiring it]. For the eyes of the Lord are [looking favorably] upon the righteous (the upright), And His ears are attentive to their prayer (eager to answer), But the face of the Lord is against those who practice evil’ ” (1 Peter 3:8-12).
These are amazing verses to memorize and commit to heart, especially if God is revealing you have an overly sensitive spirit. When we are insulted, Christians are called to bless, pray, and bring their hearts before the Lord. It has been my experience, the individuals casting the rudest or condescending remarks, are usually the most miserable inside. God has opened my heart to feel sorry for where these people are in life and pray for them. Many are blinded by the ways of the world and instead of casting insults back, show them what a true Christian is like. “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for in doing so, you will heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord will reward you” (Proverbs 25:21-23, Romans 12:20).
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for God’s wrath [and His judicial righteousness]; for it is written [in Scripture], ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome and conquered by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:19-21).
Picture:Diana Leagh Matthews