In case you missed it, last week’s post was inspired by a quote from the Marvel Civil War (comic and movie) and explored how it relates to our Christian walk. Some of the themes explored were how the Bible also uses the imagery of a tree planted firmly by water, how God’s word is truth and the Holy Spirit is a spirit of truth, and that those who claim that wrong is right and right is wrong were warned of destruction by the prophet Isaiah. This week we will look at Scriptures that say Christians will be hated and persecuted by the world for their beliefs.
We are in a time where it is difficult to publicly proclaim your Christian faith, and even more difficult to make it clear that you not only read, but believe in and follow the teachings of, the Bible. The level of persecution is not as extreme in the United States as it is in other countries, but it is becoming more clear than ever that the Post-Modernism worldview has no desire to see faith-inspired public words or actions. We live in a nation that is pushing more towards the “You can believe what you want, just as long as you keep it to yourself and in your house” mentality. A Christian who tries to speak the Truth of God’s Word in public is likely to be scorned and mocked by the general public. The natural reaction to this might be to conform to their demands and maintain the silence of private faith, clinging to your views but saying nothing about them nor speaking out against those who go against God’s Word. But is that what the Bible tells us we should do?
Jesus speaks directly on the matter of how the world will react to us. This is not a reaction that will come because of checking a box on a form, nor from silently reading the Bible, praying in our homes, and attending church services on Sundays. This is a reaction that will come from being in the public square, speaking out with boldness.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’” John 15:18-25 (ESV)
If you were of the world, they would love you. If you would just conform, just blend in and accept what is popular and trendy and politically correct, you will not have to face hatred or persecution. But God chose us to be the salt and the light of the Earth (Matthew 5:13-16) and that requires a certain level of apartness from the world. A lamp is placed on a stand so it may be seen, not under a basket to where it blends in with the surroundings. The people of the world today try to live under, to steal a phrase from Del Tackett, a covenant of tolerance. They want to be free to do what they want in their lives and, in return, will leave you free to do what you want in your life. Just don’t point to the sins they are committing and you can run rampant in the sins of your choosing and everyone can just be happy. They have an agenda for their lives and they don’t want a person, much less a transcendent God, interfering with that agenda. This is part of the reason for their violent reaction towards Christians today, because they want to remain free to live in their sin without condemnation, without guilt, without remorse.
We, as Christians, all love to spout John 3:16 as a verse, but the verses that follow are just as important to remember:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” John 3:16-21 (ESV)
God did not send Jesus to condemn a world to death, nor to miserable lives, but rather to provide a way for eternal life. This world is not all there is, and Christians should have peace in this world knowing that our citizenship is not of this world, but of heaven(Philippians 3:20-21). So “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.” 1 John 3:13 (ESV) because we stand for something higher than the world. So long as we are in the world, we are called to live in the light rather than in the darkness. Part of Jesus’ prayer (see John 17) also spoke about the world hating us and how we are remaining in the world. The whole chapter is worth reading, but here is a part for emphasis:
“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” John 17:14-19
So it is clear, from these passages, that if we are living in the way that we ought to as Christians, the world around us will hate us. They will tell us to move. They will call us hate-mongers, bigots, and worse because they want to live in the darkness and loathe having a light shined upon them. The light exposes their sin, and as Romans mentions all have sinned (Romans 3:21) and the words of God’s law are written on their hearts and their conscience exposes them to this truth (Romans 2:14-15).
The acknowledgment of a moral law, written in their hearts, would point to the existence of a moral lawgiver. The existence of a moral lawgiver would mean that there is a way in which they ought to be, ought to act, ought to live. And that will stand in opposition to much of what they want to be, want to do, and how they want to live. Therefore they will react with violence and hatred toward those who walk in the light of God’s truth. Stand firm, my brothers and sisters, against the opposition of the world. Next week we shall look at how we, as Christians, are called to live in the world full of people who love the darkness and tell us to “move”.
Heavenly Father, I thank you for the nation in which we live, where we still have the ability to speak freely about our Christian faith, even if it is met with scoffing and scorn from the world. I pray that we will continue to steep ourselves in Your Word, which is the Truth in which we must plant ourselves in order to remain encouraged and strong. I pray for those who are living in persecution of any sort, whether it is verbal mockery for their beliefs or under the open threats of violence in other nations. Let us take heart, knowing that the world hated Your Son and, as He was persecuted, we will also be persecuted and hated by this world. Grant us the courage to be bold in living out our faith in You, Father, even when it is difficult to do so. Let these words reach those who need to hear them and grant them the strength they need to remain strong in running their race. In Jesus’ precious name I pray. Amen.
Check out the full video with Del Tackett, which is well worth the time invested!