He looked at me in the face, and he was angry, he was angry because he was confronted with an uncomfortable truth. The truth he was confronted with was the stark reality that his words and his actions didn’t match. And being confronted with that reality made me the object of his wrath. He was angry at me.
And I hated that.
It is never really very fun to deal with the reality of life that sometimes befalls a leader, even a servant leader. Most of the time the conflicts come when a leader has to lead and that means making uncomfortable some who really don’t want to follow. But what are we to do? Simply become enslaved by the few who won’t or can’t see beyond the end of their nose? Why should a few hold an entire community hostage?
But leadership has it’s cost. It always does. The key is to love even those who are angry with you and always keep your soul tender to repentance and forgiveness. Always!
The Apostle Paul faced this on numerous occasions. Even though he was, as he tells the Philippians in Philippians 3:4-6, “circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee,” his ethnic “purity” didn’t help him in dealing with the strong opposition to him converting Gentiles to Christianity. His brother Jews were furious with him. Even some in the Church were “suspicious” and worried because there were so many more Gentiles than Jews in the world and wouldn’t this be a problem for the Church if they were flooded with Gentiles? But the Apostle Paul kept on doing what he believed he was called to do.
Listen to what he says in today’s Epistle Lesson: “BRETHREN, having this ministry as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways; we refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of truth we would commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” (2 Corinthians 4:1-12)
It’s a long quote, but worth the effort today!
First notice the Apostle distinguishes between shrewdness and wisdom! He renounces “disgraceful, underhanded ways.” And declares he is an open book and his motives are clear to anyone who wishes to examine them. He also states that he refuses to “lose heart.” Tough to do when you’re under attack, but he says that he has a ministry and he has received mercy so he mustn’t lose heart!
Second, he reveals that those who can’t see what he is called to do are “blinded” by the god of this world. Wow, that’s a powerful indictment. But the results are clear that he was correct. Now look how the faith has spread to all nations because of his faithfulness to his calling from Christ.
Finally, St. Paul acknowledges both his reality and his faith. He is “afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” His confidence, his hope remains undaunted by the adversities. He knows Whom he serves.
Today, you may be faced with opposition. You may be tempted by the negative voices all coming down on you at once. It’s not fun being on the receiving end of opposition, but you shouldn’t be surprised by it. Following Christ means confronting the real opposition to His life-changing message. Don’t give up. Don’t lose heart. Don’t get discouraged.
Today, remember you are a recipient of both a ministry and mercy. Be faithful, Be diligent. And know that even the trials of opposition you face are going to be a blessing to all you touch, in spite of opposition, for God’s love and His Gospel. The ones who benefit from your faithfulness will thank you for not wilting in the face of adversaries! Today, press on!