If you make it a habit to go to church, you will probably miss the pre-game show on TV. It is in this show that pundits discuss the game that’s about to be televised and explain why one team or the other is going to win. They make predictions about that game and others. They talk about football gossip, in other words. Pre-game shows have taken on a life of their own. Those who miss the Sunday morning pre-game show can watch the Monday night one, or the Thursday night one. Even if you don’t like those shows, at least it gives a few ex-football players a job for a couple of years.
Jesus wanted His disciples to realize that there is a “pre-game show” when it comes to the Day of the Lord. The Kingdom of God may be now, but the Day of the Lord will happen in the future. And before it happens, troubles are coming. What kinds of troubles? We will see false messiahs, wars, earthquakes, famines, and pestilences. There will be all kinds of signs in the heavens. In all this, the end is not there. We are reminded that there will be all kinds of persecutions that arise and even families will rise against their own. Jesus reminds us what to do until that day comes. “Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life.” (Luke 21:17-19)
Inside the church, we will love each other. That is our nature as Christians. If we don’t love each other, then we need to check our commitment to God. The church should be our haven, our resting place, to prepare for a world that will hate us because of our commitment to Jesus. We see attitudes changing towards Christians in America today. Instead of church being the place to be; instead of people being popular because they follow Christ, taking a stand for Jesus brings opposition. People accuse Christians of hating others because we stand against sin even though we preach a gospel of grace, forgiveness, and mercy at the same time. Our very existence is anathema to a world that wants to live without standards; to a world that wants to do things their own way. It is easy to be frightened when we see the opposition. The call of Jesus, though, is to stand firm. Even if you are shaking in your boots, stand firm.
Paul exemplified that as he took every opportunity presented to him through persecution to proclaim the grace of Jesus Christ to those who attacked him. That is our message to our persecutors. We must continue to show others the love of God – especially when they are hating us. We must show others the grace of Jesus Christ when they are dragging us before tribunals. While we have not experienced that in the US, we have seen that example given by followers of Christ in countries where persecution of Christians is considered good. Our goal in life is not to be loved. It isn’t even to be hated. Our goal in life is to be faithful to Jesus Christ. He says that because of this we will be hated. If that happens because we are showing others the love and grace of Jesus Christ, so be it. We are called to be faithful to follow His example. When they abuse, we are to show love. When they attack, we are to show grace. In short, we are to be living examples of Jesus Christ to a world that is in opposition to God. It’s easy to concentrate on the end times, but we need to realize that we are living in the “pre-game” show and are to concentrate on being the body of Christ in our world today.
Oh Lord, we all want to be loved. The truth is that many will hate us if we follow You. Give us the courage to continue to follow You no matter what. Let our lives and our words proclaim the grace of Jesus each and every day.