Most of us cannot stand the thought that someone has something against us. It drives us crazy when we try everything we can to get them to like us, to forgive us, to see value in us and yet they continue to treat us as trash or a non-existent person. It hurts; it really does. Yet, if we are living in Christ, loving him by obedience to his commands, walking in the mission he has given to us, it is only a natural thing that we become hated by those who are lost in the darkness of this world. When you represent the light in a world that prefers for their sin to be hidden in darkness, who do not want to be told the truth, who do not want to "feel" uncomfortable you become a target for their hatred.
They don't hate us because of our righteous because we have none of our own. If we try to convince the darkness of the light through our projected self-righteous we will only turn them off from the truth. We are not infallible. We are not yet perfection. If we try to project a plastic life they will see right through it and there will be no power to our testimony. However, when they see what God has done with our sin and how he transforms our life and when they see an actual progression in our growth then they may see some value to it, even if the nature of it produces hatred in them. The point to remember, it is not us they hate so much as it is the Jesus they see in us:
“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." (John 15:18-21)
We have nothing to complain about in North America, not yet. Our neighbour may not like us and avoids talking to us because he doesn't like "religion". Too many people trying to tell you how to live, he says. He's not so weak that he needs a crutch, he tells you, giving you permission to use it if you want, while he tears you done with the other neighbours. You may even have a group of people online attacking you as you share bits of the Bible with others, especially if that bit addresses the sins they enjoy the most. But these things are nothing compared to the hatred that is inflicted upon Christians in most of the world. Try serving Jesus in Iraq, Iran, Egypt or Nigeria right now. Hundreds of Christian Nigerians were killed this last week and hundreds of churches burned to the ground because of the Jesus they represent. There were once 1.5 million Christians in Egypt. They now estimate that only 200,000 remain.
The reason for the hatred is a simple matter. The world loves what belongs to it and hates what does not. When we accepted Jesus as our Saviour and agreed to follow him as our Lord, he ceased to be part of this world. We live in it but we no longer belong to it. We no longer live by its rules and follow its beliefs. We are now Kingdom dwellers and we live by the rules and commands of God's Kingdom. To be a follower of Jesus is to be different and we naturally stand out in the crowd, or we should. There are plenty of fakes and pretenders but true lovers of Jesus obey his commands, even when it costs them their lives.
Unfortunately many of us in North America do not have a relationship of faith strong enough to stand in such storms. How can we think we can survive a hurricane when we can't even handle a Spring rain. We panic over a phone bill or a simple cold or when someone criticises our actions. We had better do something about this soon because I hear the hurricane winds approaching and many are going to let go of their faith in the face of it.We should be praising the Lord for the testing of our faith, for the trials and persecutions which prove our faith genuine. It's better to have it tested now and to have it revealed lacking so we can do something about it, because when the day of accounting comes and our faith is proven to be fake there will be no opportunity to do anything about it.
I mourn the loss of our brothers and sisters in Nigeria this week. I cringe at the thought of the violence they and their families had to face. I mourn with the children who will grow up without parents and the parents who must suffer the lose of their children. I mourn but I also celebrate the victory of my brothers and sisters who faced their trials, who were hated because of the Name, who held onto their faith and are now welcomed into the arms of Jesus. There is no greater victory. But with all of our privilege and freedom in North America, will we have this same victory or will it be stolen from us as we slip further and further into the enemy's camp?
We are followers of Jesus Christ, born of his sacrifice and the Father's will, no longer part of this world but citizens of an incredible Kingdom. We have access to the divine nature through the Holy Spirit in us and it is through us that Jesus glorifies the Father. Ours is a surrendered and obedient life as we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us and strengthen us in that obedience. We cannot worry, fear, or be bothered by the hatred directed at us by this world. We hold onto the knowledge that greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world, and that nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ. The world killed Jesus but they could not rob him of his victory, his glory or his power. We share in that same victory, glory and power. Today, in the face of everything, remember who you are and who you represent. Demonstrate your love by your obedience to the very end of this age.