The Lord Jesus Christ said this:
John 15:20-21 (NIV) 20 “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. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.”
The Apostle Paul said this:
2 Corinthians 2:15-16 (NIV) 15 “For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?”
There’s an interesting scene in the movie “The Help.” It is the story of a group of black women who in the fifties and sixties worked as housemaids in Mississippi. One of the main characters is a spoiled and uppity white woman named “Hillie.” Particularly obnoxious, one morning she is approached by her maid. Hard-working and polite, the young woman asks Hillie if she could provide a small advance on her pay because she is a little short on her son’s college tuition. A reasonable request. But Hillie responds with condescension and visible cruelty. It’s obvious that she does not want to be helpful. Her husband quickly bolts from the breakfast table leaving Hillie to deal with the maid. What does she say? “As a Christian, I will help you by not helping you because you need to do this on your own.” (Or something like that) So…she takes the opportunity to portray the hypocritical Christian as cheap and uncaring and repulsive.
Once again, Hollywood characterizes the “Christian” as hateful, mean-spirited and cruel. The first time I saw that scene, I thought “If Hillie is a Christian I am a Martian!” But, as you know, the film industry and the unbelieving culture can be depended upon to mock all things Christian. And often they are obsessively suspicious!
Now…before saying more…we must admit that some people claiming to be Christians are downright nasty and certainly un-Christlike. They carry signs that say, “God Hates Fags!” Or they show up at funerals and disrupt a family’s privacy. Such people give all true believers a bad name. I am not speaking of those folks but rather simple, garden-variety, every day, well-behaved Christians who are held in contempt by many in our culture. Why are such polite and “good neighbor” Christians often hated? Why is that? We’ll return to that question.
Consider the Chick-fil-a restaurant chain. They are opening several locations in New York City.
Recently, a writer named Dan Piepenbring wrote an article in the New Yorker. In a wave of hysteria, he suggests that Chick-fil-a is acting as follows:
“…the brand’s arrival here feels like an infiltration, in no small part because of its pervasive Christian traditionalism.”
What is Mr. Piepenbring’s cause for alarm? That leadership at Chick-fil-a is known to oppose gay marriage and to have Bible verses visible in its headquarters…and its stores are closed on Sundays…and that the company’s “bigotry” is well-known. For Mr. Piepenbring, the management of Chick-fil-a are nothing less than religious terrorists who are obviously planning to bring down America in a tidal wave of chicken sandwiches and praise music! Thus, they are “infiltrating” the City of New York! Interesting that business could not be better for Chick-fil-a in that city; apparently even the non-religious really like their menu! But would a serious writer really see the presence of a company managed by Christians as actually subversive and dangerous? Apparently…yes.
Those who hate the Gospel want to litigate about everything from cake baking to a football coach who was dismissed for praying with his players. Of course, all of these things are mostly “soft persecution.” In many places around the world, Christians are being persecuted as badly as they were treated in the third century. It’s been estimated that more Christians have been martyred for their faith in the last half century than in all previous centuries combined. And that is saying something!
For the first three centuries of the church, Christians were jailed, beaten and executed wholesale at times. The Emperor Nero used Christians as human torches for his garden parties thru the night. In fact, even a brief review of the early church sufferings will shock most believers today. It was not until 313 AD that the Emperor Constantine decreed that Christians were not to be persecuted. In fact, in a burst of enthusiasm, he declared that from that point forward everyone should become a Christian! A policy that no doubt filled the true church will hordes of unbelievers. In any case, persecution was known and expected thru the centuries by those who followed Christ.
Today, such bias and cruelty are still mixed with politics. EPC Pastor Andrew Brunson has been held prisoner in Turkey for nearly two years. He faces a possible thirty-five-year jail sentence. Having been a missionary expressing his love towards the Turks for twenty-three years, this accusation by the government is surely nonsense. Yet, following the unrest of two years ago in Turkey, he stands accused as a collaborator. His real crime? Sharing Christ…no doubt.
That is hard persecution. Here is more of the soft type. I have personally grown weary of non-evangelicals criticizing, even mocking, evangelicals who “sacrificed” their moral integrity by voting for Donald Trump. Heartsick over the moral issue of killing the unborn, many of us found Mrs. Clinton totally unthinkable and were quite willing to take our chances on the unsettling Mr. Trump. But, for some reason, non-evangelicals find the evangelical vote fair game for condescension. One suspects they simply are not interested in our explanations.
Yet….in my view, the distain that many show to Christians is really rooted in something deeper. Usually, it is Christ in us that they despise. I experienced this for months some years ago when I publicly preached against gay marriage. So many of our “tolerant” friends could not stop hating and reviling long enough to even listen to my points. But my love for the Word of God was the real offense. It took awhile for me to realize that speaking out for Christ will truly be, as Paul said, a stench in the nostrils of many unbelievers.
There are some, to be sure, who just don’t care. But many others have figured out what evangelicals are really saying. Namely, that if one does not receive Christ one will be lost for eternity. Hostile unbelievers are usually living with a quiet rage against the true Christian because of what we believe. They may not be able to quote John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth and the life…no one comes to the father except thru me!” But they know that is what the New Testament teaches and since they do not want God in their lives, they are offended. We must not be surprised. This may include people we truly care about…including unsaved family. The Lord Jesus Christ said:
Matthew 10:22 (NIV) “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
Thus, we are to the hardened unbeliever, as Paul said, “the smell of death!” So…what are we to do? Realize with pity the lost state of the mocker or persecutor. Pray for that person(s).
Remember what they did to Jesus and his teaching that “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they abused him, they might well abuse us. In closing, a quick story. A very gifted young preacher told me about some severe criticism that he received after a certain sermon. He was a little disappointed. So, I said “Well…one day Jesus preached a perfect sermon (Luke Chapter Four) and the listeners tried to push him off a cliff!” In the end, consider the words of our Lord:
Matthew 5:11-12 (NIV) 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Blessings! Pastor Alberta