The word of the day is “sake.” Which of these would we choose: worldly wisdom, strength, honor, and riches or their opposite: foolishness, weakness, dishonor, and poverty? Today in our reading of 1 Corinthians 4:9-16, Paul speaks about the hardships that he and the other apostles are enduring for the sake of Christ. He contrasts these adversities with the boasting of the Corinthians that they are wise, rich, and honored. The apostle’s defense of his ministry puts a question before us. We can either be wise or fools; strong or weak; distinguished or dishonored, rich or “hungry and thirsty, poorly clothed, beaten, and homeless” (vs. 11).
Blessed Are the Reviled and Persecuted for Christ’s Sake
We would probably choose the good things that the Corinthians said they possessed. But consider the Word of the Lord Jesus: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake” (Matthew 5:11). If we would choose to live for the sake of Christ as the apostles and saints did, and if we would live for Christ and the Kingdom as Paul and the martyrs and confessors did, then we would choose the second option.
The world despises the way of life that Paul describes. But this is the manner of living that brings the blessing of the Kingdom. For the Lord said, “When you are despised “for my sake” then “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in heaven…” (Matthew 5:12).
Paul Urges “Imitate Me!”
Note that Paul is not only speaking about prophets, apostles, and saints. The apostle urges all believers in Corinth, “Imitate me” (vs. 16). And later in his letter he writes, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). What does that mean? Paul answers, “… whatever you do, do all for the glory of God” (vs. 10:31). We should not live and work for our glory, advantage, or comfort. And we should turn negative treatment into positive reactions as Paul said, “Being reviled we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat” (vs.12).
There are great blessings from the way that Paul recommends. We do not have to worry about the opinion of others. And we can put everything we are and do in the hands of Christ, who directs our lives for good. Moreover, there is spiritual power in this approach to living in this world. By blessing those who curse us, we turn the hatred, insult, and offense around. We transform them into good as St. Paul says, “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).