There’s something wrong with this picture. They had just been thrashed with whips. There’s no reason to think the beatings were gentle and restrained. Skilled men with powerful arms whistled the whip through the air and it came down hard upon the backs of the apostles.  With threatening voices, they charged them to never ever mention the Name of Jesus again and then sent them away.

But look closely at these Christian men as they leave. Look at Peter’s face. Isn’t that the smile of peaceful contentment – not bitter defiance? Isn’t there a gleam in his eye? Isn’t there a bit of a bounce in his step? How could they whistle or hum that tune – or, maybe they were singing. Deep within their hearts, they were full of gladness. They were rejoicing.

If a journalist with the Jerusalem Post caught up with them that day, they might legitimately ask them: “Excuse me, sirs! Your backs are inflamed. You are covered with bruises and plastered with hot red streaks? Why do you look so happy?

And they departed from the presence of the council (Sanhedrin), rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. Acts 5:41.

It’s called an oxymoron – a pointedly foolish saying.  Something that conflicts or contradicts and doesn’t make sense. e.g. sweet bitterness or labouriously idle.  Here the oxymoron is: honoured to be dishonoured. Or dignified by indignity. These Christians were thrilled to think they were linked to Christ and could suffer shame for His Name.

Eugene Peterson once paraphrased Peter’s letter of encouragement to believers like this:

If you’re abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate. It’s the Spirit of God and His glory in you that brought you to the notice of others. If they’re on you because you broke the law or disturbed the peace, that’s a different matter. But if it’s because you’re a Christian, don’t give it a second thought. Be proud of the distinguished status reflected in that name! 1Peter 4:14-16

In other words, you are doing your job as a Christian; you are letting your light shine for Christ.

If you aren’t invited to their weekend party; or, if they’re whispering or snickering in a corner; or, if they don’t ask you to autograph their yearbook; or, if they don’t include you in their huddle as they tell a dirty joke; or, if they ‘forgot’ to invite you to the Neighbourhood Annual BYOB Summer BBQ ….. dear believer, (unless you have been unwise or unkind) it is likely because you have been faithful to Christ – shame for His Name.

Sneak away to a quiet place – shed a few tears and thank the Lord that He ever saved you. Tell Him, from your heart, how thankful you are for the shame, the humiliation, and the reproach that He endured.  Ask Him for strength and courage to remain faithful and true to Christ.

“Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”(1Peter 2:21-24)

Walk carefully and closely with the Lord today.

Warmly in Christ
Peter Ramsay

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