When Christ Jesus walked this world in human form, much of the known world hated him. As I look at the fallen world whence I came so recently, I weep as I see raw unbridled hatred to a degree that, plainly, discourages me in a profound way. In this issue, we'll explore the concept of hate from my perspective.
As a new Christ Follower, fresh from the World, I have begun to feel the pain of the World's people so keenly that it follows me everywhere. I feel the onset of tears at what the World considers very inappropriate times. At church. At work. While driving. Sometimes it is so overwhelming that I fear I'll be consumed by it and be driven, presumably merrily, stark raving mad. So let's walk together and try to put a face to this pain. Why do those who follow the Way of Jesus bear it so soberly and yet so joyously? Why does the World hate Christians so? What is it that drives the heart of the heartbroken spirit? Oh, I had hoped to write a brief entry this time, but nope, you've got me going now...Let's get to it.
First, let us define hatred. According to Wikipedia: Hatred is an emotion of intense revulsion, distaste, or antipathy for a person, thing, or phenomenon, generally attributed to a desire to avoid, restrict, remove, or destroy the hated object. Pretty harsh words, even for a definition. Obviously, living in this fallen world means accepting varying degrees of hatred from a myriad of sources. The media, our peers, our leaders and even our family; it's hard not to see some kind of hate wherever we look. So let's get it out of the way, we must even accept hate from God.
Oh, I can feel the looks of disbelief and astonishment from the non-Christians from here... Oh, and look, even a few Christians sitting there at their screens, mouths agape, as if to say, "Did he just say that for real?" Well, he certainly did. So let me explain what I mean. A good friend of mine pointed out to me that God, as Lord of all, must of necessity have hate, since a) he created all of our emotions, and b) without hate, love is cheap. Think about it. What's the point of showing love if there's nothing in contrast to make us appreciate love to its fullest? Generally, aside from the desire to obey God, we show love others to illicit reciprocated love, don't we? And not just in the face of hate, but any negative emotion. A world without love must certainly be full to busting with hate, and fear, and sorrow. This is a description of hell, people. "The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 13:49-50).
So what is it that God hates? The answer, for those who don't know, is sin. A plain, simple, three-letter word that came into the world as soon as Adam took a bite of that nasty old apple. Sin, and all the problems, disease, hatred, fear, toil and sorrow that must accompany it. But contrary to the statements of those people who lament their difficult lives and say he hates them, God does not hate any human being, not even one. We are all God's children and he wants us to come to him. He wants us to be a part of his eternal kingdom. Yes, even those who refuse to know him. Even those who rape, murder, lie, steal and covet their neighbour's wife. Wrap your head around that one for a minute. The time will come when those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour will share heaven with rapists, murderers and molesters of children? Yes. Believe it. The Bible is quite clear in John 6:40, where Jesus says, "For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day." In other words, even the vilest of criminals can be redeemed. Even the basest of evil persons can make it to heaven. While our jaded earthly minds don't like to conceive of such a thing, the fact remains that all who confess that Jesus was the Son of God, that he died on the cross to cleanse us of our sins, and that he rose again on the third day will be saved from death and have everlasting life in heaven. And if that's what God wants, that's what God gets. Period.
The sobriety of this realization and the acceptance thereof is matched only by the joy that accompanies it. And accepting it isn't easy, believe me. In a world where corrupt people take full advantage of those weaker, less fortunate, less intelligent and less corrupt than themselves, how can truly good people be happy that the corrupt will share the rewards of heaven? I like to think that if the truly evil can repent of their ways and find their way to the truth who is Christ, then my reward is 100% guaranteed. There. Instant joy. Woo hoo!
So, then, how can it be that those who live out their faith in Jesus in love and peace be the objects of such unhindered hatred from the secular masses. No, not always violent, aggressive hate. But a sneer, an insult or a seething anti-Christian editorial qualifies nonetheless. Let me postulate, then, on why we are hated so. For some, hatred of all things Christian has been instilled in them from childhood. They know no other way. Others had a horrible experience with Christianity such as having been molested by a clergy member, or bilked out of a fortune by a crooked TV evangelist, or worse even taught to hate by a lost, wayward congregation preaching its own perverted "gospel." Too many denominations, philosophies and interpretations of Jesus' words of brotherly love have turned to rotten, festering evil in order to gain power and influence and money. Of course the followers of these ways are thoroughly convinced they are seeking the truth, or have found it. And these impostors, like the true followers of the red-letter text of the Holy Scriptures, get out there in the world and preach their filthy theology until they're blue in the face. And they win souls for Satan. Yes, the devil himself has his legions out there sowing hate left and right, encouraging sin all over. And so the world pours its hate upon all of Christianity for the sins of the false prophets and teachers.
When faced with this kind of publicity, the instinct of even the stout of heart is to hide. And many followers of the true Jesus do that very thing. They worship in private and try to get through life in relative safety without ruffling too many feathers. Some fight back, and get drawn into useless arguments that leave both arguers seething and self-righteous. Therefore the impression the world gets is that Christians are either flimsy, weak and pathetic, or militant, loud and obnoxious people who would stick a tract pamphlet down everyone's throat if they had one.
Jesus himself said this: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35) This is the acid test to discern true Christians. I hope that the non-Christians who read this can see the difference now. You see, in loving our fellow man and trying to save him from hell we refuse to stand on a box in the street and beat our chests in the name of God. "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they with me." (Revelation 3:20) Scripture says nothing of Jesus kicking the door down and dragging followers into his way. This is not to say that we will lay down and be quiet, either. "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8) As disciples of the one and only Son of God we are called to go out and make more disciples. Not because the church needs more money, or because we're just trying to annoy people. Not even because it just feels nice when a new believer is born and we all cry, "Hallelujah!" It is because Lord Jesus loves all people, and so, therefore, must his disciples.
In this day and age, the mere mention of the name of Jesus can evoke some pretty strong negative reactions. These reactions can range from the patronizing, "Hey, if that's your thing, good for you, but Jesus isn't my thing, OK?" to the outright, "You can take your Jesus and your Bible and jam it sideways (we all know where)." Truly, these reactions come from fear, or resentment, or some hidden pain, but the misunderstanding of Jesus teachings does not come from contradictions in Scripture, as I once thought. It comes from false teachers, hate mongers and those who would use Jesus' name for their own selfish desires. It also comes from the Enemy, Satan, who tries to influence people who seek God to seek something else instead, and who in preventing belief in Jesus is also preventing belief in himself. How better to deceive than to make oneself "nonexistent?" Then the whisperings of the Enemy in a human ear take on the guise of human thoughts, and concepts can be twisted and perverted until only hate remains.
Many, many people use the supposed Scriptural contradictions as a defense, though they've not picked up a Bible in years, if ever, and never really read it anyway. Even though there is no need to defend oneself, aversion is the automatic reaction. Better that than a Christian sink her hooks into you and actually make you believe it's really true, right? Heavens, no. I've read almost all of it now, and I'm here to tell you straight: The Bible does not contradict itself! It's actually quite coherent. And in meditating on many passages, I have discerned that the Holy Scriptures have the solution to many, if not every single problem we face as human beings. It isn't necessarily a pleasant solution, and it's not always a solution we find easy to accept, but it is a solution, all things being equal, that works. Problems in the world are the result of the Fall, and so it follows that God's Word is the cure.
But the topic today is hate. I guess one of the major reasons the secular world hates Christians is due to God's judgment. The non-Christians feel the believers themselves are judging them, or trying to change their lives, take away their freedom to have fun or enjoy life in the way they see fit as is their right accorded to them by the Constitution. God demands clean sin-free living, no doubt about it. What nonbelievers don't often realize is that they are already enslaved by their sins. And many are proud of it. How many more conversations must I endure of how drunk this guy got, or how many women so-and-so has slept with, or who's cheating on whose wife, or how many times can you drop the F-bomb in ten seconds? Of course, in pointing out the sin, Christians are accused of being "holier than thou" when in most cases they are just living up to the high standard God holds us to. And they are doing it out of love, not judgment, which is the sole domain of the Almighty himself. Of course, the Christian life is a hard road, and fraught with temptation. Moreover it leaves the Christian under scrutiny and at the mercy of the finger-pointers who say, "See, they're all hypocrites." Yes, Christians fail. Yes, we screw up. Yes, we sin. But we help each other, not judging, and raise each other up. We ask God to help free us from our chains of unrighteousness. And we are forgiven because of the wondrous thing Jesus did for us when he gave over his life to bear the weight of our imperfections. If God can forgive us, surely the world can give us a fair shake! But wait, Jesus also says this: "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first." (John 15:18). He was speaking to his disciples, and so to all of us who read it. Even those who speak the truth will be hated. So if we are despised because of false teachers, and shunned because of those who preach truth, what are we to do?
A wise Christian, in my estimation, will wait and pray until God provides an opportunity to witness for Christ in the most effective way. As I said earlier, we will not kick in the door for Jesus, but when the door opens, we're in there like a dirty shirt. And we're praying like crazy for those who would persecute us to be shown mercy and love from God. So you see, we are not enemies of the nonbeliever, or anyone. It's time we started taking some of our good name back out of the mud and wave the flag a little. Time to stomp out the haters in Christ's clothing and at the very least give the secular world a way to tell the true disciples from the false prophets. And remember, true believers, what God says: It is written: " 'As surely as I live,' says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.' " (Isaiah 45:23). He will use us to get the word out. We just need to wait to be given our assignments without huffing and puffing and blowing houses down to do it, OK?
Non-Christians, I challenge you to be friendly to the next Christian who wants to talk to you about Jesus. Just have that conversation anyway. Just make time for it, even just ten minutes. Don't argue. Just listen, and ask questions. If you don't come away a believer, at least you'll gain a new understanding of the world of the disciple. We're not so bad, you know. We make excellent friends, even if now and then we tell a bit of Jesus' story. And if you do accept that it's true, then you won't feel injured, or conned, or manipulated. You'll feel awesome! And Christians, I challenge you to keep praying for those windows of opportunity where we can let a little of the Saviour's truth in and burn away the hatred. You are the light of the world. Let it shine!! "And they will know we are Christians by our love..."
See you next week...