Sticks and Stones

Sticks and Stones
Matthew 5:1-12
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you
and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” vs. 11

Nicknames
What is a nickname? (Wait for congregation to respond with answers) The dictionary defines a nickname a: a name that is different from your real name but is what your family, friends, etc., call you when they are talking to you or about you: a usually descriptive name given instead of or in addition to the one belonging to a person, place, or thing. Nicknames can sometimes contradict or say the opposite of a character trait: i.e. tall person: Shorty some nicknames you really like and others becomes pretty offensive. I thought this week about some of the nicknames I’ve had in my life. Some of them I can share in church and some I can’t  I’ll share one with you I really liked; Speedy Gonzales, I was called that because I was a fast runner in grade school. Others nicknames I’ve had: bean pole, putter head, Ronald McDonald, Hoover, Pete

Let’s have some fun today, turn to your neighbor a share a nickname you’ve had in your life and why you had it. Have congregation share a few. We are going pick up our study on the beatitudes and see what Jesus said about people calling us names. If you are able, please stand as we read God’s Word from Matthew 5:1-12:

Read Passage – Matthew 5:1-10
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them. He said:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil
against you because of me.
12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they
persecuted the prophets who were before you.

A Change in Focus
Many Biblical scholars and theologians consider there to be eight “beatitudes.” They count verses 10-12 as one but I would like to suggest that it might be better to look at verses 11 and 12 separate from verse 10. I say that for one reason, that I believe that verse 11 and 12 have a change in focus. Let’s read verse 11 again and let me point something out to you:

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” vs. 11

Notice in verse 11 the word “you.” In fact go ahead and circle it. Also notice the word “your” in verse 12 and circle it too. In the previous 8 beatitudes it says “blessed are” and that is followed by “for they/theirs.” In this last section, it starts the same with the “blessed are” but follows it up with “you.” This is an interesting change in focus. What does this signify? The others seems to be somewhat generic and they apply to us personally but they are also to be characteristics of the church as a whole. I think this one really tries to get us to consider your part and your actions to the way the world views you and treats you. Really they move us to a place and decision of our personal responsibility. Are we really willing to stand for what we believe even it it causes us to be insulted, persecuted, or lied about. It really is decision time when we read these, and the decision is to really consider what we believe.

What To Expect From “The World”
Here is a little warning for you as we delve deeper into this passage: if you choose God’s ways, if you accept salvation through Jesus Christ and choose to live life according to his ways, you can expect the world to treat you in one of three ways. This isn’t a maybe. It is a reality. You will experience these kinds of things. I defined these areas as 3 areas of attacks. That may sound strong, but I believe that they really are attacks.

1. Personal Attacks
The first area of attack is personal attacks. Verse 11 starts with:

“Blessed are you when people insult you…” vs. 11a

Let me start by explaining that insults are personal attacks against you.

An insult is: to do or say something that is offensive to someone: to do or say something that shows a lack of respect for someone.

Notice the strong language in the definition; offensive and of lack of respect. Yes, insults are personal attacks. I will be honest with you here, I don’t like getting insulted. It hurts. It doesn’t make me feel good nor does it really do anything to help me improve who I am. Actually, if anything, it gets me mad and I don’t like that because I want to be bigger than that. And another thing, beware if someone says “I am just doing this for your own good” or “I am just being honest.” Neither one of those help me take an insult any better.
Ex. I had an uncle who was this way. It seemed every time we got together he felt it was his job to point out everything that was wrong with us or out of place. He would note the things in the house that were out of place, off centered, or not dusted. He was brutally honest about how he liked the food. He was also honestly brutal about his “critique” of your clothing. Needless to say, he wasn’t our favorite uncle.

Now think of this when it comes to your faith. You might have people who pick apart everything about Christianity every time they see you. Worse yet, they question how you could believe certain Biblical concepts and ideals. And…they use insults to describe you and our faith. Some we can take with a grain of salt but others just plain hurt. It’s never fun or pleasant to have your faith attacked. It is getting more common for Christians to be insulted for their faith.
Some examples: Bible thumpers, fundamentalists, right wingers, etc.

2. Physical Attacks
A second attack that Jesus warns us about are physical attacks also called persecution. SO the verse continues in 11b:

“…persecute you…” 11b

Persecution is a very real occurrence in our world. We don’t experience much of it here in the United States but around the world is it much more prevalent.
• Open Doors reports the countries of greatest persecution of Christians: North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
• Rueters reported it had no figures for killings in North Korea but said Christians there faced “the highest imaginable pressure” and some 50,000 to 70,000 lived in political prison camps.
• Christianity faces restrictions and hostility in 111 countries around the world compared to 90 for Islam, the world’s second largest religion.
• In Syria in 2013, Rueters reports that there were 2,123 Christians martyred for their faith, more than double from 2012.
• Some 150,000 Christians are killed for their faith each year, according to both the Catholic relief agency Aid to the Church in Need and the evangelical group Open Doors.
• Today, Christians are by far the most persecuted religious group on the planet.

It is important for us to realize that just because we are not feeling the effects of the persecution around the world that it is happening at alarming rates and figures and that there could be a time when it reaches us here.
Ex. Here is an example from this week.
On Thursday, OpenDoorsUSA—a ministry committed to serving persecuted Christians around the world—issued a press release titled “Egypt Is Bleeding!”, in which an unnamed Egyptian Christian leader describes some of the horrific violence and crimes being committed against Christians. In the release, the eyewitness writes that Wednesday was “a day of many tears, pain and agony,” with over 230 deaths and 2,000 injuries.

What is our response? Prayer, lots of it, and supporting those agencies and ministries that give relief and aid to those who are being persecuted.

3. Verbal Attacks
A third attack that occurs against Christians from the world is verbal attacks. Jesus finishes verse 11 with:

“…and falsely say all kinds of evil against you…” vs. 11c

It’s a sobering thought to know that people will lie about you and falsely accuse you of things solely because you are a Christian but that is exactly what Jesus says will happen. No one knew that better than Jesus himself. He was accused of lying, of making false claims, of deceiving his followers, of misleading people, and of all kinds of wrong doings. Almost every thing good he did the religious leaders of his day tried to twist and turn his good deeds stating he was evil and doing evil. Remember he casts out demons and they said he was a demon. He heals and they claim his healings are not real and that he shouldn’t heal at certain times. They accuse him of siding with evil people, tax collectors, prostitutes, and they accuse him of stirring up the people against the Roman government. If they were doing that to him, you can be sure they will do the same to us.
Ex. Stephen in Acts 6. They hired men (vs. 11) to say they heard him blaspheme and in verse 13 they set up false witnesses against him. It cost him his life.

Our Response: Rejoicing And Gladness
I know this isn’t great news or what you want to hear. It’s not popular to bring this kind of treatment to light. You might be thinking, well what can I do? Luckily, Jesus answers that for us too in verse 12:

“Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” vs. 12

The response is rejoicing and gladness. A more literal translation would be to “leap for joy.” Now be careful here, it is not being joyful for being persecuted nor is this verse saying that we should pursue persecution. What It is saying is that when we are attacked, we are aligning ourselves with the prophets and those who have gone before us and because it brings glory to God and it is an eternal glory (reward in heaven) not an earthly glory (praise now).

It is important to note that this is not a call for Christians to bring this on ourselves or to put ourselves in positions of being ridiculed, persecuted or mocked. This is the attitude that we are take when these things happen to us.

NOTE: Remember Who Those Are Really Directed Toward
Why can we have this attitude? Because we note that these insults, these persecutions, and these false accusations are not really directed toward us. Let’s jump back to verse 11 for just a moment:
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” vs. 11

Look again at the last three words and circle or underline them; because of me. These attacks are against Jesus but take some of the brunt of them. It really is directed toward God himself but it gets taken out on us. Many of us will never face any real persecution or physical abuse. But… if we are, we remember that Jesus took the death that was ours from our sin. He did and endured more than we ever will.

Living Long-Term
And finally, we remember that this kind of thing is much longer and deeper than we are. These kind of attacks have happened for years and generations before us and will happen long after we are gone. But we embrace living long-term. What I mean by this comes from the words in verse 12:

“Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven…” vs. 12a

Our reward is store for us in heaven. It’s in a place where it can never be discredited, never be taken away, and will allow us to

We are given a great example of this in the Bible. In Luke 16 there is a story about a man named Lazarus who doesn’t have much, not even enough to provide for himself. He begs for food and has a pretty bad physical condition, sores all over his body. In fact, the text tells us that dogs would come and lick his sores. Pretty grow. There is also a rich man who has quite a bit; good clothes, material things, etc. Well, both die. Lazarus goes to Abraham’s side, another way of saying that he went with the righteous people to God’s kingdom while the rich man goes to Hades. The rich man is in agony and torment and he can somehow communicate to Abraham and asks for Lazarus, the one he saw begging everyday and never lifted a finger to help, to dip his finger in water and put it on his tongue for some relief. His answer comes back in verse 25:

“Remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.” Luke 16:25

He is basically told no. He had his chance on this earth and everyday made the choice to think short term, only of the here and now and about himself, and not long term about God and His ways and living for him.

You and I have that same choice. Are we going to live short term and make decisions now that might give us temporary joy and pleasure and want everything our way and for us or are we going to live for God, His way, and think about the long term implications of our actions and attitudes. It may cost you. You might get ridiculed, insulted, made fun of, maybe even hurt physically or accused of wrong doing. This beatitude calls us to personal responsibility and choice.

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About ronbow16

Pastor
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