The Christian life is a race that requires endurance. In my previous post on Hebrews 12:2: I said that as we look to and imitate Jesus, who for the joy set before him endured the cross—we too will endure. And one particular kind of suffering we must endure is hostility from a world hostile to its Creator and Savior. Jesus said we should expect opposition:
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.” (MT 10:24–25).
We shouldn’t be surprised when unbelievers malign us. We’re to be lights shining in a dark world. People sitting in a dark room don’t like it when someone turns on the lights. Especially if they are up to something no good. “Hey, turn off that light!” they shout. We shine the light of Christ, the light of the gospel, into the darkness. And often the world doesn’t like it.
In this country we don’t usually experience physical opposition. But we may encounter hostile attitudes. A friend of mine worked in a shop with a man who hated him simply because he was a Christian. Every day this man made negative comments and even threats to my friend.
Years ago a family came to our church, and we spent many hours counseling them and trying to help them, even giving them money to help with needs. They wound up leaving the church, and told other pastors in town that I was a Satanist. They harassed us in other ways as well, like making negative comments when they saw us. They lived near us, and one day as the wife was walking in front of our house my wife said hi to her. She responded by saying, “I curse you in Jesus’ name!” Another time she was walking in front of our house with her children, as I arrived home from work. When I said hi, she held her nose and said, “Children! What stinks! See this man? He is defiled. Stay away from him.” So much for a response to my friendly greeting.
Hebrews 12:3 gives us the key to enduring the hostility of others:
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (HEB 12.3)
Jesus doesn’t ask us to endure anything he hasn’t been through. He experienced every temptation we have only to the max. Jesus suffered incredible hostility—before he was crucified the religious leaders hated him and continually plotted to kill him. People accused Jesus of having a demon and healing by the power of Satan. At his mock trial before Caiaphas they spit in his face and struck him, and said, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?” Brutal Roman soldiers mocked and scourged him. Hostile crowds yelled, “Crucify him,” to Pontius Pilate.
Yet Jesus never reviled, threatened, or cursed in return. He took it silently. How did he do it? Peter tells us:
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 1 PE 2:21–23
When people mocked and insulted Jesus he didn’t retaliate but entrusted himself to his Father—him who judges justly. When he hung on the cross and people spit on him saying, “Hey, save yourself and come down from the cross if you’re the Christ,” he didn’t yell back, “Oh yeah, you just wait till I rise from the dead—you are going to wish you’d never done this to me.” No, he entrusted himself to his heavenly Father. And he even asked his Father to forgive those who had crucified him.
That’s how we are to endure hostility. We are to keep entrusting ourselves to God who judges justly and not take revenge or revile back. To entrust ourselves to God means we keep trusting him to take care of us. That God the all-knowing, all-wise judge will deal with our enemies. That the One who is perfectly just and will make everything right in the end. To entrust ourselves to God means we put ourselves in his hands and trust him to defend us and deal with those who attack us.
My friend that I mentioned whose co-worker harassed him didn’t curse him or threaten him, but prayed for and forgave him. God gave my wife and I grace to not retaliate against the family that called me a Satanist. The only way I could get through their harassment was to keep looking to Jesus, entrusting myself to my heavenly Father. I didn’t always do it well. I was seriously tempted to anger at times and wanted to revile back, but God helped me not to.
Are you experiencing hostility from someone? Consider Jesus and the unimaginable hostility he endured. Don’t strike back. Don’t take things into your own hands. Don’t repay cursing with cursing. Do what Jesus did and entrust yourself to him who judges justly. That’s how he will keep you from growing weary or fainthearted.
Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.