Good morning my friends. I do not mean to come at things from an angle of negativity but sometimes we need to see things as they are before we can move toward things as they should be. Let us consider one simple thing about ourselves and the Church as a whole. Jesus told us that the world would hate us. Why do you think that is? Is it because we are supposed to be rude or angry, or yelling, or showing up at events like funerals waving disgusting hate signs? No. Jesus said the world would hate us because it hated him first. The world did not hate Jesus because he picketed abortion clinics but because of his righteousness. Jesus did everything well and he taught the truth. The only thing Jesus could be accused of is loving people, caring for them, feeding them, healing them, and teaching them so they would understand the Father's heart. The world hated him for being right, doing right, speaking right. The world hated his perfect love which was not an excuse for glossing over the ugliness but instead speaking the truth in order to save souls.
The world hated Christians in the early Church. There was not an organized global persecution as some think today. There were pockets of persecutions aimed at individuals such as what Paul often encountered. It is not that these Christians did anything radical as far as we would consider radical, they simply did what was right and the people around them could not stand such righteousness. When you do what is right it reminds the people around you that what they are doing is wrong. They hate you for it. This was much of the source of the persecution, because the Christians represented a change to what had become normal.
Early Christians really stood out from the world but not so much any more. Today the vast majority of Christians blend in nicely with the world; we have found a means for co-habitation. We do not seem all that different and we are much less of a threat because we act just like they do. They can overlook our odd habit of dressing up on Sunday and meeting to sing some songs, after all, many people are into different clubs and support groups. We don't bother them because they do not see any threats to their chosen lifestyle. Despite appearances on Sunday, the Church is in sad shape and needs a real good wave of the Holy Spirit washing over us to convict us and get us back on track.
Our commitment to Jesus is not deep enough for us to be willing to look like a fool or to be put into a position of disgrace in front of the world. We do not want to stand out. We do not want to be made fun of. We do not want people whispering behind our backs. Let me lay this on you then:
The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. (Hebrews 13:11-14)
Now I will let you off the hook a little bit; it is not all your fault. The leadership has allowed the message of the Church to be distorted as we have promised people an easy life filled with great success and money. We have let go of the teaching of the suffering gospel because the suffering gospel was taught wrong. People were taught that if they were not suffering then they were not holy, they were doing something wrong. If we suffer due to our own foolishness and actions it is a religious thing and has nothing to do with God. However, in living a life of joy and peace, we face trials, hardships and persecutions for the sake of Jesus or because of Jesus then we are getting closer to the mark. No one looks for hardship but it will come naturally when you do what is right for the sake of Jesus. Jesus said that these things would be a natural result for anyone who follows him.
This does not negate all the promises that he gave concerning our success; I just do not see success in the same way some of you do. Success is when I overcome my enemies by the love of Jesus. Success is when I have faced temptation and triumphed in righteousness. Success is when I choose to forgive instead of hate. Success is when I put in an honest day's work for an honest day's wages. Success is when I allow Jesus to work through my weakness even if my weakness embarrasses me. Success is when I allow his joy to permeate my entire being even when I face pressures that threaten to crush me. Success is when I make it through my day only because I trusted my God. Success is when I can genuinely laugh with my children after a long hard day. Success is when I can continue to worship, trust and advocate Jesus even when his plans have taken me to a place a did not expect or desire. Success is when I stand out as being different in my community because I have chosen to do what is right instead of what is accepted and expected.
If we have truly encountered Jesus Christ and allowed him to transform us into a new creation then we know we cannot pursue what the world pursues. We know that we do not belong to this place and should feel uncomfortable being surrounded by all the things that dishonour our God. We know why we cringe every time Jesus' name is misused and why we weep over all those people going in the wrong direction. We know we will not see people's behaviours and actions change unless their heart is changed. Picketing won't help change the heart, especially when we ourselves do not have the right heart. Until we are able to let go of this place and long for the next our priorities will continue to me messed up. We do not belong here and we should not fit in here. Perhaps we should start by examining the life and teaching of Jesus once again.
"Move Holy Spirit, move in life. Move Holy Spirit, make me like Christ."