“And you will be hated by all for My Name’s sake….” Luke 21:17

“Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.” Luke 21:14

Are we hated?  Are we persecuted; or am I just being paranoid?  What does hate look like?

I would submit that the word of Christ and His followers are being hated in ways both blatant and subtle with an ever increasing vehemence.  First, yes, there are places where even mentioning the Name of Christ, outwardly showing a cross, worse yet, trying to testify to someone about becoming a believer can get you gruesomely killed.  And while there indeed are some places where totalitarian regimes have fallen so one might assume that Christian ideas are not as openly persecuted, it is not as if any of those places have become beacons of Christ acceptance.

Yet I feel there is an equally dangerous threat to Christ’s message arising that is less obvious then the overt threat of physical pain and destruction.  It is the threat that comes from the concepts that get voiced in comments like:  “You can believe but don’t talk about it.  or Espousing your belief is against our rules (our constitution) or If when you state your belief, I am offended in anyway, then you must stop or pay with your job, your reputation and/or your place in society; finally, You may only state your belief if you change it to suit my sensibility.”  Please don’t misunderstand me brothers or sisters thinking that I attribute this threat to one segment of society.  No, I believe that it is becoming a threat from many if not most segments of the worldly society and sadly, even within some aspects of our churches.  In this supposed era of greater tolerance, the clear message is that I will only tolerate your idea if I can agree with it.  If I do not, states the world, then you must change it or face my condemnation.

If we are to be disciples of Christ, we must be very careful in how we respond to this threat, this attack, this hate from the world.  That, I believe, is what the Spirit filled preacher, Dr. Martin Luther King gave us some valuable insight about when he counseled the marchers in Washington DC in his famous “I have a dream” speech about responding to the hate against African Americans.  He counseled: “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred” (I have a dream, Dr. Martin Luther King, August 28, 1963).  There is a human concept called the law of psychological reciprocity that states we are mentally wired to respond in kind to how we are dealt with; that is if you hate me, I will return that hate.  We see this in the kind of “in your face” confrontations that are so prevalent throughout our societies.  We are seen as weak if we will not raise our voice to a shout or lash out in our “righteous” anger.

Yet we are not left alone in trying to figure out how we should respond and what we should respond with.  For we have the example of Jesus Christ.  Note how in control He was of Himself when constantly confronted by the Jewish leadership.  Jesus did not lash out angrily in response, He did not call names.  God Himself in Jesus Christ, He who could rightly judge, rightly condemn, rightly bring down destruction upon His enemies, chose mercy and forgiveness instead.

But Doug, you say, I am not God, I am a person and they are attacking not just Christ, but they are attacking me!  Yes they are.  And understand this, it is not just fellow human beings who are attacking you and I, but it is the power of the evil one who is behind it.  You’re point is well taken that we are ill equipped to withstand that……….on our own.  But we are not on our own.  In fact, Jesus Christ warns us to not even try to use our own wisdom or our own understanding to thwart this attack.  No, Jesus Christ wants us to humble ourselves and be open to, be subservient to the Message and Leadership of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit will answer through us in a manner that will confront, confuse and confound the critiques with an irrefutable wisdom.  And though this can seem like a frightening proposition, Jesus promises this:  “But not one hair of your head shall be lost, by your patience possess your souls.” (Luke 21:18,19)

Peter, Paul, John and many of the other disciples and later writers espouse a great paradox here.  They say we should be joyful that we are persecuted.  Note they don’t say it will be easy, but we should find joy and be at peace in it.  Why?  For we become so much more like Christ because of it.  And like Christ we should strive to be a servant in our responses.  We should respond in mercy and love to the judgement and hate.  We should have faith that no matter the number or volume of the voices against us, they can not prevail against God.  And here is a vitally important thing to remember, as we are meek in ourselves yet bold in Christ, all will hear and some will be swayed, some will call upon Christ and some will be saved.  They are not saved by us, lest we boast, but they are saved, as we are, by the love, mercy and forgiveness of Our Heavenly Father in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we testify that You have the only message that matters.  We also testify that this world tries to quash that message from being spoken and destroy any and all who would speak it.  Give us a spirit of meekness to turn to You in response and pour out Your Spirit of boldness to speak that which you will put into our mouths.  Forgive us when we shy away from the confrontation and keep us from being tempted to reply in judgement, condemnation and hate.  That in our responses as in our lives we bring Praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen