1997-03-14 - Persecution
Around the world, the church of Jesus Christ and the individual Christian meet with varying levels of opposition. The persecution most American Christians meet is social or professional pressure to keep quiet about our faith and beliefs. There are a few incidents where life and limb are in jeopardy. But this can be a daily experience for believers in other parts of the world. The one thing we all have in common in this aspect of our walk is that the world hates us.
But it seems to be the most odd thing. We have the greatest news that mankind could ever want. We want to share the Good News that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, defeating it ultimately. That he has removed all obstacles from us spending eternity in glory with Him. All but one. We must admit that we are imperfect, unable to hold at bay our flesh at all times. Call it sin if you have the courage. But all Jesus requires is that you accept the free gift He offers. In so doing, He gives us His righteousness to put on and takes our old tattered life and removes it. In the exchange, we gain eternal life in a place that the omnipotent Jesus has been preparing for two millennia.
And for this message, the world hates us. Why? It is the message? Is it us?
John 7:7 - "The world cannot hate you; but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil. (NAS)
So the world hates Jesus because He shows them that they are not perfect. He shines light on things that they, and we, would rather no one ever knew. Most of us would not presume to say that we are perfect. But we try to do the right thing and lead a good life. But Jesus didn't say 'good enough'. The measure the law demands is perfection, which we have already admitted is beyond our grasp. The idea that our best efforts are insufficient in any degree strikes at the heart of our being. We chafe and struggle against the idea. When Jesus finally gets through our thick heads to our hearts, and we accept His sufficiency as our own, the battle ends for you . Well, one battle ends and another begins. Often, a new Christian has the idea that life is going to be seen from behind a set of rose colored glasses. When persecution hits, it can be a real jolt.
John 15:20-21 - "Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 "But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. (NAS)
The world hates us because we remind them of Jesus. If that is true then the persecution is directed at Jesus through us. If we remind the world of Jesus, then we must be walking close to Him. If we were not, they would simply laugh it off. This is also an indicator that we are a problem to the enemy. If we were not a problem to us, He could leave us alone and worry about the Christian who were causing him problems.
The world persecutes us because we remind them of Jesus. But what is it about us that we remind them of with regard to Jesus? Do we remind them of His judgment? Judgment will eventually fall on each individual, both Christian and non-believer. For us it will be for rewards as we enter the eternal Kingdom of God. For the unbeliever it will be a proof that they have not measured up to the standard of perfection required by the law. But Jesus has other attributes too. Do we remind those we have contact with of His endless, unfathomable love for each one of us? Matthew records Jesus' instructions to His disciples.
Matt 5:43-48 - "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.' 44 "But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you 45 in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? 47 "And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more th an others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (NAS)
Be perfected in love, as God the Father is perfect. God can not abide in the presence of sin. He hates sin. But that does not mean that He hates the sinner. We who name the name of Jesus Christ still sin. We are not perfect, and we do fall. But Jesus Christ has taken our sinful, tattered life and given us His perfect sinless life. All we had to do was stop resisting His gentle, patient call on our hearts. He has never hated us. He hates the sinful things we do, but does not condemn us. He takes those acts and spins them into gold for our benefit and the benefit of others around us.
To you who have only ever heard of the judgment of God, He loves you. He wants to do nothing less than to exchange places with you. That's what the cross was all about. The wrath of God poured out on Jesus for each of us. Jesus did it for you, when He could have called 12 legions of angels to destroy the men who nailed Him to the cross and set Him free. But He did not. He willingly hung there and suffered in my place, and yours. If life has seemed a little bit less worth struggling through each day, know this. Jesus has no preconditions you need fulfill. Come just as you are. Life with Jesus still has struggles. But knowing that all the suffering of this life will not stand up to a second of looking into the face of the One who loves me enough to die for me diminishes the suffering to an eternal perspective. He wants to have a relationship with you for all time. Sound interesting … have questions? You can email any of us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be delighted to introduce you to a Jesus you may have never heard much about before this.
Lord Jesus, You took on the crown of thorns, the beatings and mocking, the scourging, the mock trials, the nails and the cross, the crowd and death itself for me, and anyone else who will come to You. While this life does have persecutions to face, and for some it is life threatening, You walk those valleys with us. We thank You, that you have promised never to leave us alone. We look forward with expectation to the day when we will see each other face to face. What a day that will be! And on that day, our trials and pains here will fade from our minds into insignificance. You have promised to wipe away all tears from our eyes one day. What a day that will be. Amen.