Thursday, July 30, 2020

Blessed are the Hated

“Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”

What? “Do not be surprised?”

Well, that is kind of surprising in our age. After all, we’re the “let’s get along” society. No culture in the history of the world has been so omnitolerant, so permissive, so inclusive and so welcoming of everyone and everything as modern, Western society. We are so morally earnest to make sure that nobody’s feelings get hurt, nobody gets excluded, nobody is marginalized or oppressed, that we bend over backward to accept absolutely everything.

And given that many Christians have also bought into the mindset that we must always be liked by our society and must do everything to be seeker-sensitive, welcoming, open, all-loving, and always, always of good social reputation, should it not surprise us if the world turns around and suddenly expresses hostility and hatred to us?

How could they do that? We’re so nice!

Nice

Yes, we are nice. We speak softly and sweetly, smile often, pay our taxes, and lend a helping hand. Our church buildings have warm foyers. We have cheery programs and upbeat musical performances. We have heart-stirring lifestyle messages, community spirit, charitable contributions and great potluck dinners. We’re so darn nice!

How could the world be so ungrateful?

And yet, scripture tells us it will be, and moreover, it should be. More still, it tells us that we should be very, very concerned if the world does not hate us. If it does not, then we have actually failed in everything for which the Lord himself instituted his Church. And if it does not, then we have not the Spirit of God.

The Spirit and Conviction

Doubt that? Let’s look at what the Lord himself told us:
“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
Three things the Spirit will bring to the world by way of conviction: sin, righteousness and judgment. Let’s look at what each entails:

Concerning Sin

There’s a lot to that. The world will be continually reminded of the fact of sin, of hamartia, of “falling short of the mark”. The Spirit of God will convict men that they are not up to the standard of a holy God, and that none of their efforts will make them so. The big message? “You will not get along without God.”

Not only that, but through his indwelling activity in the lives of believers, he will make them a continually rebuking presence to the world in its efforts to be righteous in its own eyes, just according to its chosen values, and adequate to its conception of the ideal. The big message? “You are out of step with God, not good, and not living well, no matter what you do.”

These combined witnesses of the Spirit will inevitably make the world hostile, bitter and angry against Christians, and induce them to want to wipe them from the face of the earth, especially so long as the Spirit’s testimony remains clear in them.

Concerning Righteousness

Not only that, but there is evidence things could have been better. That witness is the perfect, holy life of the Son of God, which he lived here on earth amid all the trials, hardships and temptations that ordinary men face. But he was righteous. So there is no longer an excuse to the effect that righteousness is merely an ideal rendered unattainable by the circumstances of the world. It’s been done. In every circumstance of life, Christ was everything the Father would wish, and everything that satisfies the standard of the very highest ideal.

It’s been done.

But now, Jesus Christ is ascended. He is not present in the world to represent that message. So he has left others in his place, others who are being empowered and drawn toward that standard in which he walked. And it’s really happening, in real life. These are his true disciples, those that remain in active life connection with him by the Spirit — the true Christians.

In their daily lives, they will be a continual rebuke to the godless world, showing them that movement to the ideal cannot be had without relation to God. So again, the world will hate the Christian for that.

Concerning Judgment

If all this were not bad enough news for the world, it gets worse. The final convicting testimony of the Spirit of God is this: the time is short.

The power and order of this world is under judgment. The matter has already been decided and the day set by the Father when the Son will judge this earth and its deeds in righteousness. The projects and hopes of this world do not have unlimited scope, and time is running out. The powers upon which they can call, and all that they hope to bring to their aid, are insufficient. Moreover, the devil, who rules this world, has already seen all his plans come to disaster, and knows that his time is also short.

Every person who is already, so to speak, “packing his bags for eternity” by ordering his life so as to prepare exclusively for the next is a standing indictment and a ticking clock in the consciences of the people of this world. They are walking reminders that for this world, “it’s all over but the crying”. No strategy, no prospect and no hope is any longer available to those who reject God. There will be no new “good society”, no giddy future of cybernetic bliss, no unassailable achievements and no infinite life spans. And every deed done in the flesh will come under its just condemnation. Now nothing but judgment remains.

Do you wonder why the world hates us? Are you going to be surprised if they turn themselves inside out with rage in a vain effort to erase the message embodied in Christians by the Spirit? By God’s Spirit, we are the death-knell of every worldly hope.

There It Is

So now you see it.

Don’t be surprised if the world hates you. Be surprised if it doesn’t.

The world has every reason to hate us. That is, so long as we are vessels acting under the motivation of the Spirit of God. Jesus said, “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.” The reason? “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you”, and “I chose you out of the world.” Being “out of” the world (even while being bodily in it), the Christian lives as an alien and stranger in this land, a walking testament to the existence of a better land.

Meanwhile, to unbelievers, Jesus said, “the world cannot hate you”. So there is really nothing worse than being likable on the world’s terms. If the world cannot find a reason to hate you, that is a very seriously bad thing for the Christian. It means the Spirit of God has absolutely no testimony in him or her. And that would also seem to mean he or she is no real Christian at all.

Good thing the world doesn’t need much motivation to hate. All it needs is one sniff of the work of the Spirit of God, and hatred will come.

Still, doesn’t it concern you that it doesn’t come more often … and harder … and with even more venom?

I know it worries me.

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