Agamemnon, king of the Greeks, was discouraged. He had come with a powerful army to conquer Troy, but this day the battle had gone badly. His men were retreating in panic to their ships. Fearful of what the dawn might bring, with 50,000 Trojan warriors eager to press their attack against him, the Greek king was in despair. “Let us flee with our ships to our dear native land,” he said, “for no more is there hope.”
His captains sat silent in their grief for a good while. Finally, Diomedes stood to speak. “O king,” he said, “once you reviled my valor and said I was no man of war but a weakling. But even if you and your ships flee, I and those who stay will lay waste Troy.” Emboldened by his brave example, others also began to speak up. At length they all recovered their courage, and in the end they won the war.
Out of this ancient story our attention is drawn to the word “revile” or “heap insult on.” The Greek word is oneidizo (oh nay DID zo). It could also be translated “to cover with shame.” In the Mediterranean world, where shame and honor were so important to a man, this word packed quite a punch. It meant that in the eyes of the world, the man was disgraced.
But Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you” (Matt 5:11). He himself willingly accepted insults (Rom 15:3) and did not try to retaliate when they heaped insults on him at his crucifixion (Matt 27:44). The writer of Hebrews urges us to join Jesus “outside the camp” of personal security, “bearing the disgrace he bore” (Heb 13:13). In the Christian value system we should, like Moses, regard “disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than all the treasures of Egypt” (Heb 11:26).