Have you ever noticed that when people have a strong belief in something that they cause all kinds of trouble by showing their belief and sticking to it? Often they believe in a cause so strongly that they are willing to go to jail because of their beliefs. If you know of a person who has been arrested for “criminal trespass” for example, they were probably involved in some kind of protest over an issue that was important for them. Strong beliefs aren’t really popular in our society – at least if they go contrary to the beliefs that prevail in society today. When you have people of clashing strong beliefs making a stand, tempers will flare.
Undoubtedly, some Christians will try to intervene because we are called to be peacemakers. There is a special panic in the Christian community if the clash is caused by people who happen to be Christians. Somewhere, in the backs of their minds, Christians can’t seem to wrap their heads around the idea that having a strong belief in Christ, having a strong belief in a God that is active in this world, is going to cause conflict with people in a world that is opposed to Christ. Their cry is that Christians are to bring peace to the world. In truth, the only peace we are to bring to the world is the peace of God. That peace won’t come to people in rebellion against God. When Jesus talked about the problems Christians would have in this world, He was quite blunt. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)
As you read the rest of that passage, the thought becomes stronger. Family relationships will be destroyed by a commitment to Christ. Those who follow Jesus need to be ready to lose their lives in the same world that crucified Jesus. Unless we are ready to give up our lives, literally, we will have lost our lives. In essence, we would no longer be committed to Christ; we would be absorbed into the world’s system. As Christians, we are called to stand against evil in this world. Here’s a hint: evil exists and it is accommodated, if not welcomed by the world. When we stand against evil, we are vilified. In some countries, standing against evil brings the penalty of death – either officially by government action or unofficially by mob action of those whose evil is exposed. Our world wants everyone to operate under the philosophy that “I’m OK [and] You’re OK” when the message of the gospel is, “We aren’t ok, but God has a plan to fix that.” The message of grace and forgiveness is revolutionary and, apparently hateful, to a people that see no need for grace and forgiveness. It separates families and creates conflict.
So what do we do? It would be so easy to slip into the mainstream of society and float downstream. God’s call isn’t to blend into society. God’s call is to be salt and light to a tasteless, dark society. We are to continue to proclaim grace and mercy to a world that thinks it’s OK. We are to continue to proclaim forgiveness in Jesus Christ to a world that either doesn’t need forgiveness in their own mind, or thinks they are too far gone to be forgiven. We are to stay true to Christ in the face of opposition. We are to do that with grace. We are to do that while continuing to show forgiveness remembering that Jesus forgave His crucifiers while on the cross. Don’t seek to be hated by society; seek to show God’s love to each person no matter what the circumstances. That revolutionary stance will give you more than enough trouble in society, and often in the church.
Lord God, remind me of Your grace. Remind me of how much you love me. Help me to show that love to others and endure the opposition that comes my way. If people hate me, let it be because I am faithful to You, not because I am hateful to others.