by Tony Oliphant
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12). While it’s easy for many to remember this passage from the Beatitudes, it’s a much harder thing to actually rejoice and be glad when we hear all the slander against Christians in nearly every media outlet. We’re being branded and dismissed: bigot, hater, transphobic, anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-love, nearly any epithet that can be invented is being invented in order to write off all who make their stand on the Word of God.
As if that weren’t bad enough, sometimes we make the matter worse. We betray our confession when we hide the truth. This happens by not confessing what our Lord has given us through our words and actions or by simply trying to make ourselves unseen by anyone. We receive a strong warning against this type of behavior from Jesus: “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before me will be denied before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8-9). We also betray our confession when we change it by caving in to societal pressures and name-calling from cultural pundits and media regulators. Tragically, this has been the reaction of many as they seek to dodge the insults of a corrupted culture. But again, we are warned: “If salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (Matt. 5:13).
If those are the wrong reactions, what are the right ones? Follow in the example of the saints who encountered a hostile culture and widespread false accusations. Speak the truth as the Apostles did when they were called upon to do so (Acts 2:14ff, 4:5-12, 24:10-21). Cling to what the Scriptures teach, even when it looks like the world is against it, as the Lutheran Confessors did before the Holy Roman Emperor at the presentation of the Augsburg Confession. Teach the truth in the arenas where God has placed you, in your daily vocation, where the truth of what we teach intersects with everyday life. Fathers and mothers nurture the children God has given them with the pure spiritual milk of the Word. Pastors preach the Law to reveal the lies of the devil and the world and show the shining light of the Gospel to console shaken and terrified consciences. School teachers instruct and reveal the marvels of how God has created and ordered creation. Administrators are free to make use of agencies and laws in the left-hand kingdom in order to uphold everything that is needed for speaking the truth. We all have different vocations and different roles—and that’s good. We can speak the truth in places that have been entrusted to us.
Furthermore, like the saints of old, and as our Lord has taught us, we can pray as the baptized children of God. We can pray for those who speak evil about us. We can pray that we would be kept steadfast and faithful by the Holy Spirit and the Word. It may not be easy, but it is good and it is heard by our Father in heaven. The world will always reject the truth and seek some new exciting lie to embrace, but our faith has never been in this world. We can rejoice in all of the treasures won for us on the cross of Jesus and, by the grace of the Triune God, cling to the Truth in word and deed.
Rev. Tony Oliphant is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Elmhurst, Ill.