By Bill Hall
“Let us go forth therefore unto him with the camp, bearing his reproach” (Heb. 13:13).
One who is willing to bear the reproach of Christ should be held in high esteem, but there is a major difference between bearing his reproach and bearing one’s own reproach.
The person who suffers “for righteousness’ sake” (Matt. 5: 11); for “earnestly contending for the faith” (Judge 3); for being “a Christian” (1 Pet. 4:16); for refusing to “walk in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries” (1 Pet. 4:3,4); or for unashamedly “becoming a companion of them” who do stand for truth and right (Heb. 10:33,34), is indeed bearing the reproach of Christ.
The person, on the other hand, who suffers because he is constantly demonstrating an ugly disposition; or is failing to “bridle his tongue” (Jas. 1:26); or is “causing divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine” of Christ (Rom. 16:17); or is determined to “have the preeminence” within the church (3 John 9); or is “sowing discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:19), is only bearing his own reproach, not the reproach of Christ.
It was the reproach of Christ that Stephen bore as he was cast out of the city and stoned (Acts 7:54-60). It was the reproach of Christ that the apostles bore as they were “made as the filth of the world and the offscouring of all things” (1 Cor. 4:9-13). It was the reproach of Christ that Timothy was urged to bear as Paul wrote to him, “Be not thou therefore ashamed . . . but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:8). But it was his own reproach, not Christ’s, that Peter suffered when Paul withstood him to the face, for Peter 41was to be blamed” (Gal. 2:11). Reevaluation is needed as one looks back on the reproaches he has suffered. He must ask himself, “Was it really Christ’s reproach that I bore at that time when I felt self-pity, fought bitterness, and complained of persecution, or is it possible that I was at fault and that it was my own reproach that I suffered?” At the time reproach is being suffered, practically everyone believes that it is Christ’s reproach that he is having to bear. But the passing of time allows for more objective evaluation. This in turn often leads to better analysis and repentance. It is the person who refuses to reflect and evaluate that is the real loser.
The person who truly bears Christ’s reproach must not be ashamed, but should glorify God in his name (1 Pet. 4:16). He must “rejoice and be exceeding glad” (Matt. 5:12). He is showing that he is “worthy to suffer shame for his name” (Acts 5:41). The Lord says to him, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).
The person, on the other hand, who bears his own reproach while claiming to be suffering for Christ, ought to be ashamed. Such people have created major problems within churches, brought shame to the Lord’s name, destroyed good reputations, discouraged the faithful, and placed stumbling blocks in the paths of many. And, throughout, they wear a persecution complex and claim to be working in the name of the Lord. But it is their own reproach that they bear, not the Lord’s. Let everyone who is guilty recognize his sin, see himself as he really is, repent, and make proper confession. There is no glory or salvation in one’s own reproach.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 15, p. 463
August 4, 1988