“Blessed are ye when men shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.”

See the beginning: What Does “For Righteousness Sake” Mean?

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you,
and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven:
for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Matthew 5:11–12

    

We see here an amazing thing: In the Gospels Christ changes our way of thinking, while logic suggests to us that when they accuse you, slander and persecute you, you are unfortunate. When so many horrible things have been said about you, you are unfortunate. But Christ comes and says to you that, to the contrary, you are not unhappy but blessed and fortunate! He turns everything upside down and shows that you can look at everything anew. How does He do this? He bases this not on something earthly; but if you paid attention, He constantly talks about the Kingdom of Heaven, about God, about the vision of God, rewards in the heavens—that is, He says to you, “This life means work.”

Just as you work all month so that at the end of it you’ll receive your pay, so it is here. You labor, you have to work, be an intelligent person, and “play your role” well so that you won’t be carried about left and right. You are like an athlete running in the stadium—if an athlete starts waving to the spectators and looking around for his mother… I sometimes go to school festivals, and when the dear children come out on the stage they look at the hall to see if their mothers are there. The teacher waits for them to begin to play their instruments, but they are standing there looking around for their mothers and fathers until they’re quite sure that they are there looking at them. If runners in the stadium likewise start looking at the public, of course they are making a mistake.

If you compete in sports but your mind is running off in another direction, you will suffer defeat. It is the same in spiritual warfare—in this world we have to labor and not expect earthly rewards from people. If you reach your goal, which is Christ, then you will have peace, and the Kingdom of God will come for you not after you die but in this life. The Kingdom of God begins here, but in order to attain it you have to have the right measurements and know that you are not laboring for the sake of material pleasures and worldly success.

Worldly success is not built upon such things. A successful person according to worldly standards finds it hard to be merciful, to be persecuted, and to endure it when everyone says whatever he wants to him. Christ says, All manner of evil against you falsely for My sake, because if someone says something bad about us and it turns out to be true, then we will not receive a reward from God.

Know that something terrible will happen in your life—from the moment that you say, “I want to be with God!” you will become a sign which shall be spoken against (Lk. 2:34). Wherever you go you will be a sign which shall be spoken against, just as Christ was. Some will love you and respect you, but others—and they will most likely be the majority—will judge you, laugh at you, mock you, and hate you, because you desire to walk the path that they do not walk.

This happens everywhere. We also see this: People look at us priests; sometimes you’ll be walking along minding your own business when someone walks by and swears at you. And you ask yourself, “What did I do to that person?”

One day I and several fathers from Mt. Athos happened to be in Athens, waiting at the bus station. One woman standing nearby was looking at us all the time. There was a monk with us from Australia, a little naïve, and he said, “She’s probably a church-goer!” because she was looking at us dead on.

We said to him, “Pay no attention to her.”

Well, alright. So, as soon as she passed by us she turned and spat at us. Well, what can you do?

We in in fact have been in similar situations many times; not necessarily spat at, but we often hear people swear at us. And you ask yourself, why? They don’t know us from Adam, have nothing against us personally, since we are not acquainted. Why do they swear at us, spit, and do other such things? Because to them we represent something; that is, our presence reminds them of God, and this makes them react that way.

However this can also happen to you tomorrow— at work for instance, where everyone has the right to make a mistake except you. If you make a mistake or commit a sin, people will say, “Ah, a, a! You are a churchgoer and you commit sins! Is that they way people are in Church? Is that what they taught you there?”

But, my child, you yourself make a hundred such mistakes a day, and I made one a week! So what it this? Yes, you have become a sign which shall be spoken against. At home, in your family, and everywhere. That is how it is. For My sake, says Christ. Just as Christ was a sign spoken against, so will every person connected with Him walk the same path, whether he wants to or not.

We can yield, be silent, and do what others want as long as it does not hinder our connection with God, because in that case we cannot yield. If someone comes and says to you, “Wipe the floor in my office!” you think to yourself, “I am not the cleaning lady, why should I clean your floors! Well okay, I’ll do it.” Or they say, “Go and buy me this or that.” All right. But if someone says to you, “You know, write a false letter against your colleague saying that he did this or that” and he didn’t do it, then you don’t yield. You say, “No! That won’t go, I won’t do it!”

Well, of course if you have the strength… this depends on your strength. I will give you an example. When abortions were legalized in Greece, many nurses refused to participate in them and were fired. They said, “I cannot go to the operating table and participate in an abortion, or help a doctor perform one! Let him do it himself!”

They were fired.

Of course, this depends on what strength a person has. He should have the corresponding faith that if for the sake of love of God and keeping His words we endure some injustice from people, God will justify us and will not abandon us. Many have suffered injustices for this reason. There are many people who have been offered the opportunity to get rich, but through sinful means, and they refused:

“I don’t want to get rich at such a cost!”

Or a more simple case. Someone comes up to you and says, “You know, the bank offered me a promotion, but I’ll have to work ten hours a day.”

And you say to him, “Be careful, this kind of work might destroy your family. Don’t agree to it. Say, ‘I don’t want it. I want to have more time to take care of my family as a father and husband.’”

Of course one has to have the corresponding strength, because if a person does not have the strength, he does what he can. We also have to have discernment. I remember how one man was unloading crates of fruit and swearing. An elderly lady came up to him and unexpectedly struck him, saying, “Don’t swear!”

And as soon as she said this to him, he became even more furious… So we have to have discernment in order to guess correctly how a person will react. Of course, when people next to us are blaspheming God or mocking some other person, it would be good if we would talk with the blasphemer, because he is shaming himself first of all. I think it is necessary that you say a couple good words to him. Many have received help when someone said to them, “What you are doing is not good.” However one has to have discernment, so that our words would help and not harm him.

If they are people that we see every day, then it would be good to first pray for them, and talk less. Or if we have tried to talk with them but see that nothing comes of it, we shall stay silent and pray to God, so that He would enlighten them.

Couples can argue at home, or say terrible things. If a wife starts murmuring because of this, it can get even worse. It’s better for her to remain silent, and every time her husband flares up, just pray to God with pain and love, so that He would help him. And He will help him, as He knows better than us. Let us be careful not to create problems if we would like to defend God, the Church, and the faith. For this we have to have enormous discernment.

Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol
Translation from the Russian version by Nun Cornelia (Rees)

2/1/2018

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