Rejoice and be glad [when others revile you and persecute you] for so persecuted they the prophets before you.
But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
And that’s only a few from Matthew 5. This is not easy, but I think the key is this: God doesn’t expect us to control our natural reactions—he expects us to change what comes naturally to us. And He expects us to do it during the most difficult times of our lives. His people have been doing it for thousands of years.
Jesus went to Peter’s house one evening and found his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. What did she do the moment she was healed? And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them, Mark 1:30. How many of us would have taken the next few days off to recuperate, expecting a little more sympathy too?
The apostles were arrested and put in prison, then brought out and beaten. What did they do? Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name, Acts 5:41. Rejoicing at being beaten? That certainly wouldn’t be my natural reaction.
Stephen was stoned for what he preached and what did he do as he lay dying? And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep, Acts 7:59-60. Impossible, you think, to forgive your murderers, but not for Stephen, a man “full of grace” Acts 6:8.
Aquila and Priscilla were run out of Rome, forced to leave their home because of persecution. What did they do? They set up shop in Corinth and offered Paul a place to stay for as long as he needed (Acts 18:1-3). Me? I probably would have pleaded a need for time to get organized and put my life back together before I put my home in the upheaval of a long term guest.
Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison. What was their reaction? About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, Acts 16:24. They were aware that “others were listening to them.” I’m not sure I would have been aware of anything but my own aches and pains, and completely unconcerned about what others were going through.
And what did David do immediately after his child died? Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped, 2 Sam 12:20. At this most horrible time for any parent, David worshipped. Is it really surprising? Job did the same thing, and he had lost all his children. Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped, Job 1:20.
It seems that the natural reaction for a true child of God who undergoes any sort of trial is to turn to his Father, to serve, to worship, to pray, to sing, even to forgive. I am usually more interested in my own welfare than anyone else’s. I tend to forget anything spiritual and concentrate on my own physical or emotional pain as if it were the most important thing there is. Is that what a Christian should do? These people tell me otherwise, and I could have found many more examples.
Truly I have a long way to go, but this maybe I can remember: If I have become a new creature, then what is “natural” about me, including my reactions, should have changed too.
Now the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged. But he that is spiritual judges all things, and he himself is judged of no man, 1 Cor 2:14,15.