Tuesday, April 8, 2008

If they hated Him . . .

Most of my interaction with the secular world is casual, such as small talk with clerks and a few neighbors. Some relationships go a bit deeper. We socialize with a few neighbors and spend time with family members who do not include God in their lives.

Having friendships with non-Christians is a challenge for me. I’m aware that I’m not to be worldly in the sense that all I care about are temporal things. Christ has other priorities for me. I’m also aware that I cannot make these people feel as if they are a “project” and my only reason for spending time with them is to convert them to faith in Christ.

I’m also aware of where they are coming from. Because they do not know Jesus, my spiritual life is either hidden to them or a perplexity. They may be polite only because we live in a society that is terribly polite, but they could intensely dislike me and what I believe.

Jesus told His disciples, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19).

In today’s reading from Ears from Harvested Sheaves, the author explains this by reminding me of what happened in Eden after Adam and Eve sinned. God covered them, and told them that their sin brought various curses on the world, including difficulties in life, childbearing, making a living, and fighting evil. The reading says, “God Himself has put enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent; and nothing will secure you from the manifestation of this enmity if you are on Christ’s side.

In other words, because I belong to Jesus, the enemy is out to get me. Satan will use whatever is under his power to do it, and it does not matter if I have position in this world, own a great deal of property, have a marvelous education, display an amiable personality, am lavishly generous, and genuinely upright in the way I live. If I am following Jesus, who is “the seed of the woman,” then there will be that same enmity between me and the seed of the serpent as God said.

Time doesn’t permit a full study into the activities of Satan, but Ephesians 2:2-3 says that I also “once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

Satan is at work in this secular (godless) world, even in ordinary people who may not be excessively sinful in our eyes. Because of his power, he is able to use anyone to heap scorn, abuse, contempt or whatever he can on those who love and follow Jesus. He hates Him, and he hates us.

I could try to avoid all this. I could choose worldliness too. I might not be blind to spiritual truth, or hate those who love Jesus, but I could try a form of worldliness that puts one foot on the same side of the fence as those who do not love Jesus. Maybe then they would accept me and not hate me? Not at all; then they would call me a hypocrite—and rightly so.

Still, this is a temptation. When I was a child, I spent several years at home with an illness. I missed growing-up time with others and when I went back to school in seventh grade, I felt ‘left out’ to say the least. Since then, I’ve moved twenty-eight times, making long-term friendships difficult. Now that I believe in Jesus, He tells me that other Christian will care (and they do), but most of the people living around me, and most of my family are not Christians. Of these, He says they will hate me, even persecute me.

As a Christian, I see God’s people as wonderful, friendly, easy to love, but tend to forget that by following the Lord Jesus Christ and by living out in practice what we believe in principle, being hated is part of the package.

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