““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 the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is 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. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well. 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.’ “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. ” (John 15:18–27, NIV)Persecution… Nobody likes it and so we do our best to avoid it. Many of us live very peaceful lives in the absence of persecution and so let me give you 3 reasons why this might be the case.
First of all, we can avoid persecution if we can transform the world into a collection of godly people who are unified in the truth of God’s word. If everyone is faithfully following His truth without compromise, then the truth is not offensive. However, this option will not work because we cannot create heaven on earth. Only God can do that. And He promised, “In the world you will have trouble.”
Trouble exists because of the presence of sin and until Jesus returns to establish a new heaven and a new earth where sin no longer reigns, we must accept the reality that we live in a sin cursed world and persecution is inevitable. Because sin exists, truth is distorted, Jesus is rejected and your identification with Him means the same for you.
But what if we isolated ourselves? Couldn’t we avoid persecution if we created protected communities of like minded people? This is the mistake we often make in our churches. We create a community where we live and interact with people like us and avoid any exchange with people “not like us”. In doing so, we can avoid persecution but we must sacrifice the great commission to do so. Jesus said,
“When there is a need for light, no one takes a lamp and then hides it under a bowl. No, they put it up high on a stand so that it can illuminate the whole house. In the same way, let your light shine before men so that they may see your good deed and glorify your Father in heaven.” Mt. 5:15-16
So now we’re down to the third way to avoid persecution: Knowing the truth, but not speaking the truth. That way you never offend anyone who is not living the truth. This is the one I believe we have crafted into an art form and have invented every possible justification.
“I don’t want to judge them… We should be tolerant of different beliefs… I’m not responsible for other people’s decisions…”
Actually… all those statements are true. But none of them are an excuse not to speak truth into people’s lives. Christians have been chosen and appointed. Chosen to be a distinctive people, a holy nation, a kingdom of priests. Appointed to be ambassadors of Christ, as though God were entreating through us, calling all men to be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ. Everything about us should declare the story of forgiveness and grace through faith.
Speak the truth. It is the calling of every believer in Jesus Christ. But speak the truth in love. Suffering is a badge of true discipleship. Very often, your unapologetic identification with Him will be an inevitable offense to those who refuse to walk in truth… but only as long as you are living and speaking that truth in love.