How ought we react to hatred? Romans 12:17-21 says, “Repay no one evil for evil.” How are we to live among those who hate us? “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” What about revenge? “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves.” We are to give place for the wrath of God. Vengeance is not ours, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. What do we do with enemies? Proverbs 25:21-22 says, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink… heap coals of fire on his head.” We are to “overcome evil with good.”
Is Matthew 10:38-39 too strong for us? Sugar-coated sermons are for baby Christians. Jesus said, “he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” We are at war against corruption and greed. Are we willing to be different, giving instead of taking, dying to selfishness, admitting that we cannot solve even our own problems, that only God can save us? Are we willing to sacrifice for others or are we too selfish to make a better world? Do we believe what Jesus said, “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it?”
Jesus explained that faith sometimes divides families. He warned his first students in Matthew 10:34-37 that they would have enemies right within their own families. Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” Family opposition is part of the journey. It was in faith that God allowed our first parents to choose an opposing way of life, and it is in faith that we allow dearly beloved family members to choose a way of life that conflicts with everything we stand for. If we follow Jesus, family conflict with those who do not is inevitable.
In Matthew 10:32-33 Jesus encourages us that, “whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.” Fear robs us of life’s fullness. Bullies are basically cowards. Often times they will run from bold people who refuse to be terrorized. Even in the worst case scenario, where we are threatened with our lives for shouting Christ for all to hear, the most anyone can do is take our physical lives but not our eternity with God. Jesus wants us to acknowledge Him openly before others. Let’s not be the Christian who hides their faith. Let’s openly admit our faith in Christ before others.
If we should ever have to pay the ultimate price for our faith, Jesus encourages us in Matthew 10:28-31, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” Some people hate Christians. Jesus reassured his first students that even murderous persecutors could not touch their souls. So, where is God when Christians are persecuted and murdered? Jesus comforted us by saying, “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
In Matthew 10:27 Jesus explained what He meant when He said not to fear those who insult us for our faith. “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.” In some parts of the world Christians are severely persecuted. Even in free countries Christians can be threatened by politics, harassed by a corrupt boss or criticized by others for their beliefs. Even church leaders can coerce people into violating their conscience. Jesus told his first disciples to do just the opposite of what bullies want, by shouting their faith from the rooftops for all to hear.
In Matthew 10:26 Jesus had spoken of Christians being slandered like He was. He was called Beelzebul (meaning lord of dung). Have we been bullied into silence? Jesus encouraged us, “Therefore do not fear them.” When people insult us are we tempted to take matters into our own hands and get revenge? What about anonymous deeds done in the dark? Let’s remember, “do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19; Deuteronomy 32:35) Let’s also remember, “there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.”
In Matthew 10:24-25, Jesus coached his first students, saying “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub [more accurately Beelzebul], how much more will they call those of his household!” Have we ever been insulted for our faith? Do we let disrespect make us angry? Jesus said that for the Christian an insult can actually be a compliment. Next time that we are insulted, let’s analyze why. Was it because we are a Christian? Hateful put-downs can be a litmus test of genuine Christianity in our lives. If so, take the slander as a wonderful compliment. Receive such verbal abuse as unwitting praise. Use it to be encouraged.
Who is lost in our community? Just look around. Who does not go to church? Who has an unkempt lawn and no friends? Who has loads of money but no true friends? Who is an addict? Who is depressed and suicidal? Who is a foreigner far from home and feeling abandoned and unwanted? Who believes that life is all about the materialistic gods of this world? Who has ruined their lives and their family because of sexual immorality? Who drives through town like they have murder on their hearts? Who is deceived into thinking that theft is an appropriate way to live? The lost are everywhere and they are our assignment.
Unlike the Great Commission, the disciples’ short-term missionary trip in Matthew 10:5-8 was only “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” We read in Romans 1:16, “the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Some commentators suggest, they were not yet spiritually mature enough to look beyond their national borders. How were “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” lost? Were they not being led “in the paths of righteousness” (Psalm 23)? Was it because “Their [national and religious] shepherds have led them astray” (Jeremiah 50:6)? Had they “gone astray like a lost sheep” (Psalm 119:176)? Have our modern day shepherds been misleading us?