Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Where There Is Hatred…

“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belong to the world, the world would love its own: but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.” John 15: 18-19

None of us want to look like maniacs do we? And so we try so hard to walk that fine line between truly living an authentic Christian life and fitting in with what the rest of the world says to believe. Sure, we want to follow Christ, but we don’t want people lumping us in with the folks from Westboro Baptist Church, do we? So we try to go about our life staying out of trouble and never rocking the boat. But let me ask you this question: will the WORLD let you keep living this way?

I am convinced that we will be criticized, misunderstood, persecuted and, yes, even hated, simply for believing what the Church teaches and living our lives that way, whether we “push it” on others or not. Why? Because the world is not standing idly by, but Satan is pushing his agenda of secularism and relativism and we will not be able to evade this surge without assimilating our beliefs and actions into the currents of our times. We do not need to stand on boxes in our schools and places of work and preach, we do not have to roam the streets wearing signs warning people of the end, we do not have to write blogs and get involved in politics to garner persecution, ridicule and hatred…all we have to do is try to believe in the Truth and live it and we will feel its effects. Even if our message is a positive one of hope in Christ, rather than condemnation, we might still generate scorn: for while condemnation warns man of his impending death and judgment, offering hope reminds man that he is not truly living yet.

Don’t believe me? Then try to explain to people when they ask you why you don’t watch Glee. Try to explain to people why you aren’t having sex until marriage. Try to explain why you think marriage should be only for one man and one woman. Try to explain why you home school your kids, or won’t let them watch certain movies, or won’t let them dress like hookers. Some people will be intellectually honest enough to respect your opinion, but many people will mock you as naïve or foolish, either to your face or behind your back. The only way to avoid this reaction is to just live, act, talk, think and believe like everyone else.

But is this what Jesus is calling us to? Of course He is not calling us to be jerks. Sometimes Christians act without love and then claim they are being persecuted for being a Christian when the reality is they are being persecuted for being a jerk. Jesus IS calling us to live in the world without becoming part OF the world. And if you and I are going to do this, then we will be hated. Why? Because they hated Him. People do not want to be confronted with the Truth. People do not want to see that they are living a lie. People do not want to be told what they can and cannot do. And just by the witness of our lives—if we are living authentically Christian—we challenge them and tweak their consciences. And people don’t like that. The great irony is that Jesus offers nothing but love and true freedom and He is hated for it. And if we are going to think and speak and act like Jesus, then people will hate us to. And even in this situation, our call is to love those who hurt us, no matter how hard it may be. This is not a romantic version of discipleship, where we run to our crosses and boldly accept the persecution, it is the hard reality of dying a little bit day to day as we follow Christ in humility. It is hard and it can hurt physically and emotionally. But the only other option is to capitulate and go along with the culture and lose ourselves in the process.

We aren’t asking for this hatred and we aren’t trying to evoke it, yet it still comes. But in weathering it with love, dignity, patience, humility and gentleness, God will use our witness to bring about more good than could have come without it. In this we find our hope and our joy.

Dear Jesus, please help me to live authentically for you, every day, in every circumstance. And if persecution and hatred are shown to me, help me to bear it with patience and to respond in love to any attack, that my life may be a true witness of Your love and power in the world. Amen.

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