This is a bit more complicated than one might first suspect. While being rejected for Christ does end in eternal rewards - there are tightly defined qualifications for eligibility to such trophies. I want to begin by retracing my steps on this issue.
“Count the Cost”
I began seeking God ... battered and bleeding. The wounds were internal - but real - and life was exiting through them. I decided to read the Bible for myself - and was soon intrigued by some statements ... and confronted by others. For example, when speaking to potential adherents, Jesus used this illustration: “Which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost? ... Otherwise, when ... not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule ...” (Lk 14:28-30). Elsewhere He said, “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher” (Lk 6:40). I soon realized that part of “the cost” was, “you will be hated by all nations on account of My Name” (Mt 24:9) ... and there was no guarantee my fate would be better than His. Indeed, I should expect His. Boy, ... what an encouragement.
God’s Enemies and God’s Enemy
The call? “Come to Me” (Mt 11:28) ... and be ready to pick up God’s enemies. That last part was not too ... exciting. I already had plenty of enemies. And if I cooperated with Him, I would still be Caucasian, American, male, young, and part of a “Christian country” espousing capitalism. So, let’s see, ... that’s already a few billion enemies - give or take a few million. “Jealousy is as cruel as the grave” (SS 8:6). But, as I continued reading, I discovered ... God Himself was my “natural” enemy! In fact, He topped the list ... with no intention of being supplanted by some underling. So, “the choice” became - retain God as enemy Number 1 ... or cooperate with Him - and pick up His enemies. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into Hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!” (Lk 12:4,5).
After submitting to sane reality, it seemed reasonable to investigate this rejection matter more fully. The bedrock is probably in the Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely on account of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great” (Mt 5:11,12). This is a conditional promise.
Condition 1: “Falsely”
The insinuation is that one can be insulted and persecuted ... truly. Unfortunately, that may constitute the bulk of the human resistance I have incurred over the years. “By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler (lit. ‘one who oversees others’ affairs’)” (1Pet 4:15). “For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience?” (1Pet 2:20). This rhetorical question is an emphatic literary device in Koine Greek. The answer is, “None.”
Condition 2: “On Account of Me”
... not, “on account of me” - little “m.” But troubles “on account of Me” will be recompensed beyond any mortal’s ability to now comprehend. One prerequisite though, is one must be known ... as a follower of Christ. That requires some degree of previous verbalization. A sole commitment to “lifestyle evangelism” will not suffice. While our behaviors are to be consistent with His Word, they are not meant to replace it. How can outsiders know what they are seeing - if they do not know the injunctions behind the behaviors? “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with His holy angels” (Mk 8:38).
In new relationships, I want my Christianity known as early as possible for several reasons. First, if left hidden, acquaintances have said, or done things, that later embarrassed them - after learning I was a Christian. This has damaged relationships - not in me ... but in them. Second, by making my Christianity known early, the platform is set for the relationship to proceed on terms I prefer - whether it becomes “hot” or “cold” (Rev 3:16). Third, if a relationship does degenerate - there’s a better chance it will be worthwhile. “If you do what is right, and suffer for it ... this finds favor with God ... If you should suffer for the sake of righteousness - blessed” (1Pet 2:20 and 3:14).
“Rejoice and Be Glad ...”
This too is somewhat ... complicated. When thinking soberly, I want people to say, “Yes” to God. Paul told King Agrippa (after having his sanity challenged), “I would pray to God ... all who hear me ... might become such as I am, except for these chains” (Ac 26:29). And though Paul had told some gospel-rejecting Jews, “you ... judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life” (Ac 13:46) - he still experienced “great sorrow and unceasing grief” in his heart and could pray himself “accursed” if that could result in his countrymen’s salvation (Ro 9:1-5). He wanted everyone to say, “Yes” to God. Jesus once looked upon “a great multitude and felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mk 6:34). He took the job - and to be rejected as the Shepherd does not bring joy. He takes “no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezk 18;23 and 32). So, ... upon what grounds can one “rejoice, and be glad” when rejected on account of Christ?
First, a negative reaction ... is better than no reaction. One time, a fellow at a Gospel Mission I staffed became quite hostile. In the heated exchange, I said, “I have more hope for you than most people coming through here - at least you are reacting!” The conflict ended because - he didn’t know what to say. We know “God did not send the Son into the world to damn the world (it’s already damned) but that the world should be saved through Him” (Jn 3:17). I do not believe any spiritual exchange I have with anyone is “an accident” ... even you - right now. I trust God to bring each person “in” - sometime before his/her last breath. I do not care when, where, ... or how. Has God brought me into one’s realm ... for additional judgment? His “mercy triumphs over judgment” (Ja 2:13). He stages these “visits” ... and I am glad - at least in the long run.
Second, from a self-centered view, such opposition “is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation” ... for me (Ph 1:28). Persecution, on account of Him, is an evidence of salvation. “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Ro 8:16). Such understood interventions by God immediately creates rejoicing ... even if one is in prison, beaten, and in chains (Ac 16:25). By the way, “a sign of destruction” is not “assigned to destruction.”
I guess it all comes down to one word: hope. I hope in our Redeemer ... as Redeemer. And if He can redeem me, He can redeem anybody. He is plundering Satan’s house (Mk 3:27)..
There is another way to approach this. The world may reject me on account of Christ, but I ... rejected it first. And it should be upset with me. After all, I am a betrayer. I once willingly reclined in it, and partook of its offerings - but have now turned against it. I attack its false hopes, its empty promises, and declare it incapable of delivering substantive purpose. Should I expect no retaliation? But, the world is reacting ... as I acted with the first strike. The chorus to my song, “The World” (Oct, 1981), says:
“World, don’t bother rejecting me - ‘cause I’ve already rejected you.
As God opens my eyes - exposin’ each of your lies,
I keep findin’ - myself sayin’- to you, ‘World, we’re through!’”
Because we seek to benefit people by our work and witness - rejection is often startling, hard to understand - and hard to rejoice about. Often, it is clearly “on account of Me” (Mt 5:11) ... but not always. An accurate assessment may not come until the Judgment. A key factor is ... the troublemaker’s true motives. It will be interesting to see if attacks from carnal Christians ... end in eternal rewards. If so, many of the Christian ministries I have been in - may prove “gold mines.” So, the bottom-line? “If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God” (1Pet 4:15-16). God, ... help us qualify.