There is an undercurrent of Christianity called “cultural Christianity.” Businessmen who move to a new town look for “the” church to join because it’s good for business. Politicians are sure to be seen going to church because that resonates with the public and will add votes at the next election. Church becomes the popular thing to do because it’s an important part of the culture. To be honest, that sometimes makes it more difficult to share the gospel. When talking to “cultural Christians” it is as if they have been inoculated against the gospel by going to church. When talking to people who are outside the church, they point to those cultural Christians who joined the Christian Club, but never let Jesus transform them, and rightfully decry the hypocrisy.
Christianity was never meant to be mainstream or popular. As followers of Christ we are at war. While our battle isn’t against flesh and blood, our enemy shows himself through people. It is the natural state of people to sin. As followers of Christ we must be ready to deal with the issues created by sin. We know that we are doing it right when the world complains about how we are caring for people who are dealing with the effects of sin in their lives. Jesus faced that problem. He would cast out demons and the religious leaders would attack Him. The world hated Him and ended up killing Him. In all of that, Jesus loved each and every one of those people whose sin caused them to rebel against God. We can do no less. We must love those people who are rebelling against God’s authority. At the same time, “Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.” (1 John 3:13)
It is important to remember that our responsibility as Christians is not to ensure that hate. It is, instead, to preach the love and grace of Christ. It is to tell people that God loves them and forgives them. People will love it until you tell them that God forgives them. It is at that point that the world has a problem with true followers of Christ. They understand that if God needs to forgive them, that means they are doing something wrong. Pointing out that they are doing something wrong and are living a life apart from God angers people. They are just doing what comes naturally. They are living life to the fullest. They are doing what pleases them. And in all those things they are sinning – which is the only thing about life that comes naturally. If sin wasn’t the natural state of all people, Jesus wouldn’t have needed to come to this world. And people hate Christians for pointing out the truth that friendship with the world is hostility towards God. When we point out sin, when we offer God’s gracious forgiveness, we are disturbing their sensibility.
When we offer God’s grace and forgiveness to people it is a reminder to them that there is sin in their lives. It can be maddening. It can be redeeming. While we should never seek to make people mad, we should always call people to turn to God and leave the ways of the world. We must let them know that they have that opportunity because God loves them no matter how much they have sinned. As a reminder, if you are reading this, you are either a sinner who has reconciled to God, or a sinner who needs to reconcile with God. If that statement makes you a little bit angry, I know which part applies to you. If you are reconciled to God, prepare for the hatred. Just make sure you respond with God’s love.
Oh crucified and risen Lord, as a church we have allowed ourselves to integrate with our society so much that there seems to be no difference between Your followers and those who don’t follow You. We are accepted and loved by the world that hated You. Help us to be so close to You, that the world will treat us in the same way it treated You.