So, Don’t Be Surprised

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you.”  John 15:18, 19.

Does this resonate with anyone but me?  Jesus gives two reasons the world will hate His disciples:  1)  they don’t belong to the world.  2)  He chose them out of the world to belong to Him.  The first one is directly connected to the second but not the same thing at all.  Not belonging to the world may or may not be related to being chosen by Christ, whereas belonging to Him means we don’t belong to the world by default.

But is there any real way to avoid the world’s hatred toward those who follow Jesus?  Will being relevant to modern sensibilities?  Will compromise, if we still claim to belong to Jesus?

What can we use to attract the world to Christ yet still maintain our spiritual integrity?

The truth Jesus reveals here is the love of the world is mercurial and cold.  How the world loves its own is probably a debate we could get into but all we have to do is look at how utterly divided our own country is to see what the state of the agape’ is in.  The love the world would give its own is conditional at best and non-existent at worst.  Slavery, oppression, every kind of theft, graft and embezzlement known to man lives actively in current society and simply hides itself cleverly disguised as religiosity or the divine right of kings.

I agree with many of my friends who hold other beliefs than my own that Christians have caused problems, are hypocritical and don’t live up to their own preaching.  Yet this doesn’t explain the world’s hate for Christ as He is presented in Scripture.  Fakes, charlatans and hypocrites abound in every walk of life inside and outside the Christian faith, so what’s the big deal with those who follow Jesus?

“Remember the words I spoke to you:  ‘No servant is greater than his master.’  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.  If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.  They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.” John 15:20, 21.

We can’t sidestep this understanding if we’re gonna’ conform to the mind of Christ.  There’s no wiggle room here nor is their any escape for the unpopularity of Jesus’ teachings—even in the church.  If you ever hear the words,  “Jesus didn’t really mean that” or “There are some parts of the Bible that were just the disciples’ slipping their own ideas into Jesus’ words”, proceed with extreme caution or walk away and don’t look back because the weeds grow with the wheat.

I know many people who tell me they don’t hate Jesus but can’t stand His church, like the bumper sticker “Jesus, save me from your followers!” as if the two were separate.  We can’t deny people in religions have done many foolish, godless and horrible things in the name of their god(s), and Christians have 2000 years of history proving the weeds grow amongst as well.  The crusades were disgusting, politicizing the message is like marrying oil and water and general compromise so we can keep the job that pays is outright disobedience to Christ’s instructions.  The world may not attack everyone directly, for here in the States our country is built on a pseudo tolerance of religious preference, which translates into “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the marketplace.

Even believers struggle to be open about who they follow.  The fear of being found out and ridiculed isn’t just an adolescent conundrum but grows up with adult believers of all stripes.  The problem is modern discipleship doesn’t usually include a teaching about how we should structure our public lives where the social and working world are concerned.  We don’t teach discretion in the office because most churches have become so insulated they don’t really think about what it means for us to be in the world but not of it.  Or, a church will become so obnoxious they leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth—including other believers.

Jesus’ words,  “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them on the Day when He returns in glory” ring out with a hard edge for most of us because we misinterpret what it means to be ashamed of Him.  Being cautious around unbelievers with the hope we know is not shame but wisdom.  Our Master knew this so He warned us  “don’t throw your pearls before swine or they will be trampled.” But there’s no escaping the truth of the message of Christ as it pertains to open living.  Our daily lives must demonstrate the humility, attitude of service and trust we put in Christ’s word otherwise we are empty of meaning and lost to the faith.  At the same time we should never push our beliefs in someone’s face for this is outside the character of Jesus as well.

We must practice discretion, balanced thinking and godly wisdom when dealing with the church and the world, all the while remaining openly Christlike.  Paul’s admonishment to be prepared in season and out of season to give an answer for the faith doesn’t necessarily translate into telling people during an office meeting.  Unless we are challenged on the subject, certain settings are inappropriate for sharing our faith in a Bible study method.  Infusing our mores into our daily routine, speech and conduct towards others speaks far louder than words could anyway.

No servant is greater than his master, which means in this context we first must become like our Master before persecution means anything holy at all.  Those who attract persecution or opposition by being obnoxious cannot claim Jesus as their mentor because they have put the world’s spin on Jesus’ image.  The message must change us not the other way around.  Our duty is to challenge ourselves and question our understanding continually so that we make sure our lives conform to the truth.  Otherwise we are no different than the world we criticize, for they adjust the message of God’s word to suit their desires.  We, on the other hand, adjust our desires to God’s word.

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One Response to “So, Don’t Be Surprised”

  1. tlc4women Says:

    So true. I went through a phase recently, because of backlash, where I would weigh what I said about a subject based on the amount of negative feedback I would receive. I don’t know exactly how it came about that I began to shrink back from what the word says and keep my mouth closed but it was subtle. When I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit pointing to the neglect of my calling, I quickly adjusted and vowed to be more diligent. I never adjusted the message verbally, but I quit speaking out, which in essence, is the same thing. I’m back on track now with a new understanding of how it can happen.

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