Calling down plagues, dethroning Egyptian 'gods,' facing up to Pharaoh, ruining their cities—and yet, respected. So was Moses in Egypt. We know about his staff, his declarations to Pharaoh, his God. But the Bible also says, "Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh's officials and by the people" (Exodus 11:3, NIV). This man Moses was "highly regarded,” "respected,” "greatly esteemed," and "very great in the land of Egypt" (NIV, NLT, NASB, ESV respectively).
How Could Moses Be Respected?
While reading the story, this comes unexpected. This statement occurs after nine of the ten plagues, not before. His respect is maintained through the outbreaks. Somehow apparently he rebuked Pharaoh, brought down plagues, promoted his God, and also retained respect from the Egyptians.
How is that possible? We don't know exactly. The verse tells us that it was ultimately the Lord’s doing, but it doesn't give us specifics why the Egyptians still respected Moses. But we do see hints in the narrative. We notice not only what Moses did, but how he did it. We witness not just his acts, but his character. For example, he was firm and humble. He was a man who stood up to Pharaoh and prayed for Pharaoh (multiple times!). He was a leader who delivered God's judgments and pleaded with Pharaoh so God's judgments would stop.
Moses was strong, firm, bold, resilient, and would not compromise God's ways or truth. And he also was humble, prayerful, and compassionate in doing so. So, he was respected.
What About Us? We May Have Swung Too Far
What about us?
It’s something to wrestle with. For on the one hand, Jesus stated that there's a real hatred we encounter when we stand up for him (Matthew 10:22). People love the darkness. So when we let the light of Christ shine, people dislike it. It makes sense. They do not want God to be God over them (Romans 1:21). We will encounter that backlash.
Yet, we as an evangelical culture may have swung too far here. We acknowledge the world is post-Cristian, 'everyone is doing what is right in their eyes,' that we have the truth, people hate the darkness, and that we should expect criticism, even persecution. But we often acknowledge only this side of the coin.
We forget the other biblical side. Moses was respected when he stood up for God's truth in a much more anti-God society than our is right now (Exodus 13:11). Daniel, in the midst of the brutal Babylonian and Persian empires, was highly regarded (Daniel 1:19-20). The New Testament teaches that pastors, who especially are to steward God's (oft-hated) truth, are to be "well thought of by outsiders" (2 Timothy 3:7). And correcting our opponents is to occur "with gentleness" (2 Timothy 2:25).
Two Questions to Ask Ourselves
These two go hand in hand for us as Christians. Especially in a post-Christian culture, the truth will bring criticism, persecution, and hatred. But also, we seek to be gentle, respected, and "well thought of by outsiders."
How do we do so? Here's two questions it may be helpful for us to ask ourselves as we seek to walk this fine line.
1. Am I Watering Down the Truth?
First, we might think of truths we are presenting to unbelievers and not receiving criticism for. (This may be a good thing, or it may not.) Then, ask:
Am I watering down the truth so it is more palatable?
If so, we may not be "hated for Jesus' sake" simply because we're not representing Jesus.
2. Is It the Truth Itself or How I'm Presenting It?
Second, we might consider what we're saying which we are receiving criticism for, which is making us less respected by outsiders. Then, ask:
Are they not respecting me because of the truth itself, or because how I am presenting it?
Often, even in a post-Christian culture, it has less to do with the truth itself, and more with how we present it. If so, we must accept biblical correction. We may be forsaking the biblical ideal of gentleness, respect, and "being well thought of by outsiders," excusing that it's the truth's fault—when in actuality, it's us and how we present it. This is acutely apparent on social media.
Like Moses, Daniel, Paul — Like Jesus
The goal is to be like Moses, Daniel, and Paul, to stand for the truth and gently love those we’re speaking to. These believers were bastions for the truth in their culture and were respected due to their grace and humility.
Or even better yet, the aim is to be like Jesus. Who else in history was as tough and tender, firm and friendly, critical and compassionate? Who else like him could correct and weep? He lived for the glory of God's truth, and he loved people because of God's truth. Standing up for the truth led him to the cross, but on the way he maintained his respectful grace. In our conversations, in our social media posts, in our prayers, may we strive for the same.