But their leaders continue to do what God has called them to do, which is to pull down idols. The stage is now set. When the time is right, the opposition begins its campaign of slander. Although the leaders get the brunt of the slander, the slander is not aimed at them. The target is the group of people standing behind them who immediately get concerned about the poor testimony. They know and love their leaders, and know the charges are false. But their instinctive and natural response is to try to get their leaders to modify their behavior so the enemy will stop misunderstanding them. With these people, concern over reputation is far too important. It is a heart idol‒the one they overlooked and forgot to topple.
Such people believe that it is always bad to be called names that wouldn’t look good in the church bulletin. Now it is important to make a distinction here, one that St. Peter makes. He says this: “If you be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you; for the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Pet. 4:14-16). In plain language, if you suffer as a thief because you have stolen something, then you should be ashamed. But if you are accused of theft because of your faithfulness to Christ, then God is to be glorified. When this happens to us, Peter says, it is because the Spirit of glory is resting upon us. When gained in the quest for truth, a tarnished reputation is much more to be desired than a varnished one.
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