Cled E. Wallace
Normal human nature craves friends, and delights in being well spoken of. One of the basic passions is a feeling of self-importance. To be sinned against in this respect is as grievous as going hungry. It is the more surprising, therefore, that Jesus said, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for in the same manner did their fathers to the false prophets.” (ASV Luke 6:26).
It is commonly considered a compliment to a man if he has no enemies. But militant goodness is offensive to some and makes enemies “for righteousness’ sake.” The Lord Jesus was wholly clear of all manner of sin, and yet He began to make enemies as soon as He came into the public eye. His very righteousness was a rebuke to a selfish, scheming class, and His teaching met the most violent opposition. He was subjected in turn to ridicule, opposition in debate, and death. The worst passions of depraved hearts were loosed in fury upon Him. He had friends, but His enemies were many and powerful.
And it is interesting to note how many reacted to Paul. If there was ever a good man, praiseworthy in all respects, Paul was one. After he became a Christian, a search for sin in his life would yield meager results. And yet from the very beginning of his ministry in the gospel he was harassed as few men have ever been. Some of his enemies were members of the church—“false brethren,” he called them. From one place he fled with a companion “when there was made an onset both of the Gentiles and of the Jews with their rulers, to treat them shamefully and to stone them.” (ASV Acts 14:5). He was beaten and put in jail on a charge that he taught unlawful customs. He was charged with turning “the world upside down.” His enemies said he taught “men to worship God contrary to the law.” “Some mocked” in the face of his most brilliant sermons. A hired orator, speaking for a powerful group, called him, “a pestilent fellow,” said he ought to be in a pesthouse somewhere, and stigmatized him as a ringleader of a sect which stirred up trouble all over the world.
Jesus and Paul made enemies for a great cause, and their enemies emphasized their greatness and righteousness. “Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and 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 that were before you.” (ASV Matt. 5:11-12).