A call was put out to see if anyone was willing to trial and document a Matthew 5:11-12 experience. This verse states: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (NIV)
I was courageous enough, or silly enough, to come up with a plan to attempt to be insulted, persecuted and have all kinds of false evil said against me because of my association with Jesus.
The concept was fairly simple: I’d spend 28 days interacting online with a collection of anti-Christian people and be very open about my Christianity.
While I could go in all Bibles-blazing, stir up some very contrived persecution and get some good quotes to report back, that wouldn’t have been in the spirit of the Bible’s intentions. So I planned on going in softly, introducing myself and proceeding with calm and honest interaction, at all times maintaining the Christian philosophy of love no matter what proceeded to unfold.
For some, bantering with people of opposite religious views would be like sport. My personality type however really doesn’t like conflict. So putting myself in the middle of conflict really is a tough thing for me. Perhaps it was a bad idea for me personally to try this, but then again, perhaps I was a perfect candidate to experience heartfelt harassment from something relatively minor on the scale of Christian persecution.
Before I continue, please let me say this: I in no way want to belittle the extreme Christian persecution that has and continues to go on around the world – including people being tortured and killed for their Christian faith. I pray their blessing will by far outweigh any blessing I may receive from this little experiment.
Here’s how the 28 days unfolded.
After a month of putting it off I finally got the courage to begin. Procrastination for a writer is usually from lack of inspiration or incentive. For me it was from fear of the assumed backlash I would have to endure once I proceeded.
I posted a short message that introduced myself and what I believed and that’s about it. I tried not to be too controversial for fear of delving into the deep end straight away, but on the other hand, I also feared I would be ignored, dooming my plan from experiencing the persecution needed for the experiment. I am relieved to have finally begun, but also have the “there’s no going back now” feeling.
I checked in to see what responses I may have gotten from my intrusion of their digital turf. To my surprise I haven’t gotten the one or two responses I’d hoped for – I have over 50!
What have I started?
Granted some are a simple welcome, others however are right into how stupid I am to believe what I do and freely listed reasons why, along with other unpleasantries.
The can of worms has been opened. It seems I am instantly in damage control as much of the insults are questions that require a reply. I have to gather my thoughts, find a way to slow my heart rate and decide how to proceed.
After only the first couple of days, this assignment is really affecting me more than I thought it would.
I have email notifications that come through each day that tell me I have new messages. I feel queasy every time I see merely the ‘From’ text of these emails. I have now turned this feature off. Going into the study, where I do my conversing, makes me shudder even if I only go in there for another reason.
Even though I have put myself here expecting (even wanting) this reaction, being anonymous and able to leave and never be seen again – why is this affecting me at all?
Perhaps what is most strange, however, is that most of the actual insults have not been aimed at me. Most of the wrath is directed straight at God.
This perplexed me for a while, and ask myself “Why am I so affected when it’s God who’s taking all the actual persecution?”
I have concluded it must be my love for God that makes me churn up inside when I hear the insults directed His way.
This has been a wonderful discovery! I am actually feeling something stronger for God than the usual intellectual love that comes easier than heart felt love.
I’ve always thought and said I love God, but at times it’s difficult to feel that affection or truly believe the thought is anything but a rehearsed response. Maybe it’s a little like loving your brother and sister. You largely ignore each other, perhaps even argue, but when it comes to standing up for them in a time of persecution, you’d be there in a flash out of love.
Hearing how opposed and spiteful these people are towards God really cuts to my heart. How can they say such things to someone so loving of them?
I’ve set aside some time in the mornings to continue the conversations. It’s too hard to get what they say out of my head if I do any reading of their responses in the evening. I also now put on some miscellaneous classical music to help calm my heart rate. I chose ‘miscellaneous’ music because I don’t want any music I like to be tarnished with the memories of this experiment. Music does jog so many memories for me.
Amongst all the negativity I have received so far, a word of encouragement and advice has today come from a Christian in there too. They have confirmed that many Christians have trodden the road I was traveling before with good intentions.
I’ve found what I believe to be another symptom or explanation of this exercise.
For the first time in my life I know what it’s like to be bullied. That’s really what is happening to me.
A stronger person (in this case, group of people’) picking on the little guy. If it weren’t for this experiment, I’d leave very quickly. I know others that are bullied cannot do such things in real life. Bullying and persecution is pretty much the same thing – something I’d never thought about before.
I am involved in some lengthy discussions with some of the members. As I have been challenged on my belief in the Bible it has forced me to re-examine my beliefs. To go back to the Bible and re-read and explore topics deeply to make sure what I think is Bible says it actually does. I’m no theologian that can recite the entire Bible. In fact, reciting anything is a struggle for me, so scrambling to find where the Bible says things has been a time consuming but very rewarding experience.
It’s good to get into the Bible and really study it with purpose, not just read it for glimpses of insight.
I’ve come to another conclusion about gossip – it’s bullying or persecuting someone behind their back. In this case I can read it. Not nice.
Hurrah! I’m soooo glad to reach this final day. It’s seriously like a weight has been lifted off my chest.
If Christian apologetics was my aim, I don’t think “intruding” into an arena filled with hostile non-believers has been noticeably beneficial. If one person is beaten by an argument, another always steps in with a countering response or twist on your words, no matter how convincing they might be. It won’t be until heaven that I’ll know if I had any positive impact. I pray I had a positive effect, however small, but more so I pray I didn’t have a negative effect.
As far as the blessing promised in for being insulted in Jesus name, I can’t say I’ve noticed any financial benefits, nor reversal of hair loss from recent years.
The only blessings gained were perhaps in the form of knowledge:
- I have a better understanding of the negative effects of bullying and gossip and can now empathise, a little, with those who have been bullied.
- I better understand the mindset of my “persecutors” and this inspires me to find better ways to connect with them.
- I gained conformation that I do have a strong love towards God
- I have more confidence, after the research undertaken, in my understanding of the Bible.
Perhaps I never received the ‘true’ blessing promised in the Bible text because I walked into the insults on purpose. Perhaps this promise is not something we can seek, but only gain if the situation arises without our control.
If that’s the case, it means we never need to shy away from our faith when confronted. If persecution does come our way through no cause of our own, I believe we’ll be given the courage and blessings to match. However if we stir it up the trouble intentionally, outcomes may vary.
Will I return to my new “friends?” I don’t think so – I see little point. Will I pray for them? Yes. Am I glad I did it? If my new knowledge is of use in the future, yes. Will I profess my faith if confronted in the future? Definitely