So, would you take up a career if it was explicitly stated in the job description that you will be hated if you join up? If you knew hatred, rejection, vilification and abuse were to be your expected lot in a new position, would you embrace it or head for the hills?
A friendly workplace and a harmonious and congenial career path would be the preferred option of most folks. If people knew they were getting themselves into a lifetime of misery, abuse, hate and animosity, they very likely would never accept that job.
Yet this is exactly what the Christian job description promises us. Yes, you heard me right. Jesus made it abundantly clear that if anyone was to come after him and be his disciple, his lot in life would be one of rejection, hostility and perpetual opposition.
Did he really say that? Um, yes he most certainly did. But the way the gospel message is preached by most folks would lead you to believe that if you make a decision for Christ you will discover a life of ease, comfort, prosperity, and good times.
How we have managed to twist the clear teachings of Jesus in this fashion is certainly problematic. No one reading through the gospel accounts could find any of this “your best life now” found anywhere in the four gospels. Instead the would be disciple is repeatedly warned about what a hard slog it will be, and how much opposition he will get.
Having just finished reading through Luke and John, let me offer what we find recorded there about such warnings and such promises. They make it quite clear that if we want to follow Jesus, we will be in for plenty of persecution and hatred:
-Luke 6:22-23 Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.
-Luke 10:3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
-Luke 21:17 Everyone will hate you because of me.
-John 1:10-11 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
-John 7:7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil.
-John 15:18-21 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. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not 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 15:24-25 If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’
-John 17:14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.
And of course Jesus was not the only one who presented such a frightening job description. The rest of the New Testament reaffirms this. As but one example, Paul made this daunting promise: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
Christians are always keen on claiming the promises of God. But they almost never want to claim these promises. Scripture however assures us and warns us that the life of the believer will be one of hardship, difficulty, persecution and hostility. That’s just the way it is folks.
So what am I saying here? Given all these promises of a rough road ahead and hatred all around, are we to just harden ourselves and lash out? Am I saying we should be belligerent, nasty, ugly and pugilistic in the face of all this hate and hostility?
No. We are to be winsome, gracious, tactful and diplomatic. We are to respond in the opposite spirit. But we must be realistic here: even if we are paragons of these virtues, we still have to accept the promises made so loud and clear: the world will still hate us.
And that of course means individuals who are not right with God through Christ will hate us. So if we find ourselves confused and addled when people hate us, even though we seek to be kind and polite, we must know this is not an aberration but to be expected.
It has been promised. It is the normal Christian life. So many believers never open their mouths or rock the boat because the resistance and opposition seems so surprising and too hard to handle. Thus most believers simply sit down and shut up, refusing to make waves because the resistance is too fierce.
But this is not to be our course. We are to speak truth boldly and persistently. Sure, we speak the truth in love, but we speak out, regardless of the negative reactions and harsh responses. The servant is not above his master. If Jesus constantly faced opposition and hostility, so will we.
So we seek to be peacemakers as we speak and share our faith, but we must be prepared for the negative backlash. There is no way around this. I like how Leonard Ravenhill put it: “Why in God’s name do you expect to be accepted everywhere? How is it that the world couldn’t get on with the holiest Man that ever lived and it can get on with you and me?”