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Overlooking Insults
By Tom Brown

A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult—Prov  12:16

          This scripture has taken on special relevance for me lately. I have had to endure vicious attacks against my character. Because of my work at spear-heading an ordinance that ended public funding of health benefits for unmarried and homosexual partners of city employees I have been unfairly criticized. A prominent lawyer on television called me a “hater” and others on local radio called me “bigoted”. Gay publications have used offensive language to put me down. And then there are protestors who have come to my church holding signs meant to attack my beliefs as well as my church’s faith. Arguably I have been the front man for the most brutal attacks ever leveled against any pastor in El Paso, Texas.

            So I know something about hearing insults. I am not insulated from criticism. I can speak first hand about what it means to be insulted. Yet, the scripture says “a prudent man overlooks an insult.” This is exactly what I have tried to do in recent months. I have discovered that people insult you for one primary reason: they are trying to get a reaction from you. They want to get under your skin. You must not allow them to affect your peace and joy in the Lord.

            All of us have been insulted at one time or another. It could be from your spouse who intentionally meant to get you upset. Maybe the insults have come from co-workers that are jealous of you. The insults could have originated from relatives that do not understand you. Religious people may have insulted you because your lifestyle convicts them. They are lukewarm or they simply insult you because your beliefs are different from theirs.

              It is natural and normal to get annoyed at such insults. However, you are acting like a fool by showing your annoyance. Instead, the scriptures offer the wise alternative: “overlook” the insults.

            “Oh, Pastor, that is so hard.”

            It makes no difference if it is hard or easy; it is the right thing to do.

Why are you insulted?

            One of the important things to ask is why are you insulted? Is there a validity to the insults? I always do a quick check to see if I deserve the insults. Maybe I acted like a jerk, and I am just getting what I deserve.

            In my particular situation, the insults are not justified. I did what was right in standing for truth in my city. King David was describing the insults he had to endure. He said “for zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me” (Ps 69:9). I have come to understand that the critics are really insulting God almighty. Oh, I am not God! However, since people cannot directly attack God or since they dare not attack Him, they instead attack his messengers that are zealous for the house of God.

            Jesus said,If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!” (Matt 10:25). He reminds us of the fact that people insulted Him, so if they did it to Him, then we as His followers are going to have to endure the same name-calling.

You are Blessed

            "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt 5:11-12). First thing Jesus says if you are unjustly insulted is that you are “blessed.” There is not greater title He could confirm on you than the title: BLESSED.

            This means that God will favor you during the times of insults. Although the insults could work at destroying your reputation or undermining the work of God you are doing, God says that He will bless you during these times. Wow! I love it. I have often looked to God during times of insults and smiled at Him, “God, I must really be blessed. Did you hear what they are calling me? Praise God for blessing me because of what I have had to endure for Christ’s sake.”

            Second thing He says is what we should do to inherit the blessings of God. He says, “Rejoice and be glad.” Your face must express your joy. You must be glad not sad or mad. Why can you have this positive attitude? Simple, Jesus continues, “because great is your reward in heaven.” All the rewards are not in this life. God always pays his servants for working for Him; however, some of the pay will have to wait for heaven. I realize that I will not get my full reward in this life. I have to be content knowing that one day when I meet the Lord face to face, He shall give me my full reward. This is enough to make me happy.

            Finally, Jesus reminds us that God’s true prophets were not usually accepted as prophets in their time. Normally they were jailed or tortured or at least criticized. It was not until they had died, and other generations came to see their work for what is was—they were truly speaking the words of God.

            Jesus was rejected and crucified. The apostles were all persecuted. All twelve but one was even martyred. So what makes us think that we will be exempt from persecution?  In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12). We must stay strong during times of persecution.

Retaliation

            The first human reaction to insults is to retaliate. Insult them back, your flesh wants to do this. But this is not the Christ way. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).

          Soldiers mocked Christ when they put the crown of thorns on his head. Two thieves crucified on each side of him made fun of him. Passer bys shook their head at disgust as they hurled insults at Christ. In all of these mean words, Christ never retaliated. He did not even make threats. How often do we get so angry when someone insults us that we make threats? “I’ll get you back, you’ll see.” This is not right!

            Instead of making threats, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Jesus was not arrogantly putting Himself above the critics, but rather, honestly, opening the way for salvation for them. It’s possible to utter words like, “I forgive you, okay!” but the person does not feel they did anything wrong to merit forgiving them. Sometimes in a haughty way we tell people that we forgive them, but we are only saying it because we want to feel superior to the people.

            When protestors came to my church, I came out to welcome them and offered our clean, warm restrooms as refuge from the frigid weather. I was polite to them, but did tell them that their actions were not respectful to the church. At any rate, as I was walking back to the church building, I heard someone yell, “We forgive you Pastor Brown!” I grinned as I continued to walk. I gave no reply. You see this person wasn’t truly offering an honest-heart-felt forgiveness, but rather, was trying to make a point that I was wrong and they were right. This is not the same forgiveness that Jesus offered at the cross. He truly forgave. And this is what you must do as well. But it must come from the heart.

            Jesus also “entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”  This is incredibly important. Sometimes justice will not be fully meted out in this world, but it will in the world to come.

            A critic of mine wrote to me right after the senate passed a bill revoking the “Don’t’ Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which makes room for homosexuals to serve openly in the military. Knowing the victory we have seen in El Paso, this man was delighted to cherish in this victory: “So Pastor, how do you feel being on the wrong side of history?”

            Without hesitation, I emailed back, “I would rather be on the wrong side of history than on the wrong side of heaven.”

            Sometimes history gets it wrong. History was wrong in crucifying Christ. History was wrong in persecuting the prophets and apostles. I am aware that morals are weakening in our society. People are doing more wrong than ever before. It does not surprise me of the looseness of moral values. I understand the Bible predicted this time when the world would get worse as we approach the end.

            Noah was on the wrong side of society, but in the end, he was saved because he was on the right side of God. Lot was on society’s bad list, but he alone was saved when God poured down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorra. Don’t be on the wrong side of God, just to avoid criticism. You must stand for what is right no matter the cost.

Praise is more dangerous

            As I was meditating on the passage about “overlooking insults” the Lord spoke to me. He said, “Tom, the real danger is not in the insults, but in the praise.” God was showing me that insults can only humble us, but praise from others can lift us in pride. Even though I have been publically insulted, I have to tell you the whole story. For every one insult, I have also received dozens of praise from the public for my work in overturning the City Council’s gay agenda.

            A person will stop me in the mall, “Pastor Brown, you don’t know me, but I want to thank you for standing up for all of us. God bless you.”

            As I am walking to a restaurant, I hear a honk, I turn and man gives me thumbs up, “Pastor, give the city hell. We are behind you!”

            Emails and calls from supporters encourage me all the time. Politicians and those seeking office are trying to succor my support. It can make one feel quite special. This is what God was warning me about. It’s not the insults that are most dangerous, but the praise from people.

            I love what Jesus said about Himself, “I do not accept praise from men” (John 5:41). The Apostle Paul echoes this sentiment: “We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else” (1 Thess 2:6).

            The reason why both insults and praise should not affect you is because those are only human opinions. Just like you should not be affected negatively by insults, you should not be affected by the praise of men either. You need to be God-conscious. You must be doing everything to please Him, not others. When you live a life to please God, and look for His praise, then neither criticism nor praise will harm you.

The Devil’s Advocate

            I do not recommend the movie, The Devil’s Advocate, however, despite some crude language and graphic scenes, my brother in law told me the movie had a good moral at the end. So with his prodding, I went to see the movie.

            The plot line involves Kevin who is a good lawyer. The movie begins with him defending a pedophile, and he later realizes his client is guilty. However, despite what he knows he tears into the victim and ruins her ability to give a good testimony. He wins the case and get’s hired by a big law firm.

            He is determined to win every case even though it means covering the truth, protecting guilty people, committing adultery, and destroying his relationship with the love of his life. At the end, he discovers he is the son of Satan. He looks over the terrible life he has lived and he feels badly about what he has done. He rejects the life with the devil and when he does, the movie switches back to the beginning when he is defending the pedophile. This time, he doesn’t defend him, but instead he risk being disbarred by publically walking out on his client.

            Everyone in the court room is shocked. What lawyer will stand by his convictions of truth even if means losing his license? But Kevin is a changed man. He wants to live right. As he walks out of the court room, a reporter follows him and pleads for an interview. Kevin shakes his head and says he is not interested. The reporter yells, “If you give me an interview I’ll make you a star.” Just then Kevin stops. He thinks for moment. He contemplates the fame he might get from this. Yet he resists and hesitantly tells the reporter no and continues walking away. The reporter is persistent, and with the promise of a favorable interview, Kevin turns back and says to the reporter, “Call me up and I’ll see what I can do for you.”

            As Kevin walks away, the camera zooms on the reporter’s face, when just then, the reporter turns into Satan. He smiles and says, “Vanity, definitely my favorite sin.”

            This is often the way Satan works. He tries to lift us in pride and make us think we are better than we really are: I learned a long time ago from a pastor who said, “You are not as bad as people say you are, and you are not as good as people say you are.” That statement has helped me keep an even keel about myself. I refuse to get caught up in the mean insults of others, but I refuse to get carried away by the praises from others. Learn to focus on pleasing God, and criticism and praise will not affect you. 

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Click here to listen to Tom Brown being interviewed by Lisa Degliantoni, who later applauds a gay magazine for calling Tom Brown a "bigot."

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