Thick skin isn’t the answer
24 October 2017
How “blessed” do you feel when you are being persecuted, wrongly accused, or negatively targeted?
I’m pretty sure that none of us feel blessed when others come against us. In fact, I would even argue that most of us fear it. I know that I do. Throughout my journey as a believer so far, being wrongly accused or persecuted has honestly been one of my biggest fears.
In fact, it’s just been within this last year that I’ve really started to see how much of a barrier this is to living confident and rooted in my faith. I have grown in confidence this last year, but it hasn’t been by “getting over” persecution or wrong accusation. I thought that I just had to develop some sort of a thick Christian skin. That eventually a good Christian just stops caring that people might wrongly accuse or persecute. That eventually, this sort of thing will no longer sting.
I was wrong.
What has given me confidence has been the inevitability of persecution — and the inevitability of feeling the ache of it’s punch.
Jesus says that if we follow Him, we will be persecuted (John 15:20) and wrongly accused. But He also says in Matthew 5:11 that this kind of persecution, the kind that comes from following Him, means we are blessed.
While that is true, it doesn’t say that it won’t sting. In fact, it most definitely will.
The source of my growing confidence lies in the realization that Jesus likely wasn’t unaffected as He silently endured mockery and scorn on His way to the cross. If I’m honest, I think I’ve imagined it that way — an unaffected Jesus. But what if He felt the bitter sting of wrong accusation and persecution just like we do? What if He too felt the betrayal, the ache of being misunderstood, the broken heart, the deep dread, and the great anger that comes from being wrongly judged by men?
Jesus was fully man — He took on our flesh and sympathizes with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:12). That being the case, it’s likely that Jesus was very affected by the persecution of the Cross. And yet He pressed on.
That gives me confidence because it means, when I am persecuted, when I am wrongly accused, negatively targeted, and wickedly judged by men — I’m not alone. Jesus has been there and He knows what that feels like. He can help me bear the agony of persecution and press on.
So the answer doesn’t lie in becoming unaffected or “thick skinned” enough to take it. The answer is in expecting and anticipating the pain that will come from following Jesus. He said that there is a cost (Luke 14:28) and that there is a cross to bear (Matthew 16:24) in following Him. But there is also a great Helper who knows and understands.
There has always been a cost for those who strive to follow the ways of God. Painful persecution isn’t a new thing. David experienced it early on in his life.
Take insult and contempt away from me,
For I have kept your decrees.
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David has already admitted a few verses earlier that he isn’t perfect, but he is trying to pursue the ways of God and walking in the ways of God has always been a magnet for persecution — consider Cain and Able. If we choose to walk in the ways of God, persecution is likely going to find us too.
So what do we do when persecution finds us? I’m learning to pray. It’s not a new answer, but it’s a powerful one. I said before that the answer isn’t to become unaffected — we will always feel the sting of wrong accusation, insults, and contempt — but prayer does help remove the sting. Running to our strong God who understands us is like putting on soothing ointment on the bruise of slander. Like a kid telling their dad about a bully, we can run to God and tell Him about the bullies in our lives. It’s likely that He will will do two things, comfort us and then give us a love for our enemies.
Have you ever dealt with persecution or wrong accusation because you are trying to follow the ways of God?
I would love to be encouraged by your stories. It’s good to remember that we’re not in this alone — so comment below. Maybe you’re going through something right now? If you comment below we can make a point to pray for you.
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