Every Christian will meet in his life those who will hurt, persecute or hate him. Let the Christian not be surprised to meet such people in life, in spite of his kind and peaceful attitude towards them. Wherever the evil one loses power over a human soul, he will attack it externally - through surrounding people.
St. Macarius the Great writes: “Wherever the Holy Spirit resides, there, like a shadow, follow persecution and warfare.” For this reason a Christian must always be ready for attacks upon himself. At the same time one must remember the following words of the Optina elder St. Nikon: “No one and nothing can harm a person if he doesn’t harm himself; whoever does not avoid sin, such a one will not be helped even with a thousand saving measures.”
A Christian’s attitude towards his attackers has been defined by Christ with perfect clarity: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). To this commandment of the Lord can be added the following explanation of St. John of Kronstadt: “A person who is offended at us is a sick person, and a compress of love should be applied to his heart; we must treat him kindly, speak to him with love and tender- ness. And if he does not harbor deep-seated malice towards you, but is temporarily upset - you will see how his heart will melt from your love and tenderness, how good will overcome evil. A Christian should always be benevolent and wise in overcoming evil with goodness.”
It should be said that often in our lives we do not recognize our true enemies, but consider them to be our friends, and vice versa - we look upon true friends as enemies.
The Lord adjures us: “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). Thus our true enemies are those seemingly close friends who urge us towards sin and temptation, thus being able to destroy both our soul and body in hell. On the contrary, those who persecute us are our benefactors rather than our enemies. St. John the Hermit thus spoke of them: “If you did not have enemies, how would you be able to enter the Heavenly Realm? We must be grateful to them as though they were our benefactors. By their revilement they endow us with crowns.”
And St. Barsonuphius the Great commands Christians to “accept the one who torments you as one who treats you with affection, the one who dishonors you as one who glorifies you, the one who offends you as one who honors you, and the one who persecutes you as one who makes you tranquil. Especially love those who berate you. If we look closely, we will see that it is they who lead us to spiritual accomplishment.” Concerning those individuals who cause us great sorrow, even St. Mark the Ascetic urges us to think of them as implements of our salvation. If such people criticize us, they actually bring us great benefit in making us aware of our sins, failings and shortcomings.
St. John Chrysostome says: “If you wish to find out the truth about yourself - seek it among enemies, they will reveal it to you.” He also says that we acquire the worth of martyrs by considering enemies as our benefactors and not ceasing to pray for them.
And another hierarch assures us that “whenever someone speaks poorly about you, they speak truly; whenever you are praised - it means you are mocked.” Therefore, it is a misfortune for a Christian if no one criticizes him, or berates him, or teaches him. And we must pray earnestly to the Lord to send us such people, and then pray for them as for our benefactors.