Because of my faith in Christ Jesus and the convictions that come from God’s Word, I often feel like a stranger in a foreign land these days. That really should not surprise me because people who truly love God have never ‘fit in’ with the world; not in the past, nor in the present. Preparing this thought today gave me some pause, because I know some will take these words to justify political positions that have little to do with being a disciple of Christ.
This is not about the political party with which you are aligned, nor is it about enjoying favored status by the government. My words today are not about being weird or offensive and calling that ‘Christian.’ It is much deeper, about loving Jesus in such a way that you are ‘left out’ or marginalized, even by family perhaps, because your life is radically committed to love, life, hope, and healing rather than self, money, comfort, or security.
Jesus said “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12, NIV)
Many American Christians confuse ‘righteousness’ with noisy opposition to the increasing secularization of the nation. It is true that Biblical values are quickly disappearing from our culture. However, persecution is not the same as losing ‘majority’ status, though many confuse the two.
Persecution is knowing rejection for His Name’s sake. Being right with God is about loving Him, living for Him, being a person who is surrendered to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. That way of life will inevitably put a person at odds with the world in which he lives and may lead to genuine persecution.
Jesus says when that rejection comes, not because we have acted as obnoxious fools but because we are committed to Him above all else, we are in a place to find God’s joy, to know the comfort of living within His Kingdom embrace. Ah, Christian, we cannot, must not, become defensive when we feel attacked, rejected, or marginalized. Jesus says that if such things are coming our way because we love Him, we should ‘rejoice and be glad’ because of the assurance that God keeps the real score and His reward is rich and eternal.
Christian, we must learn to deal with our fear of being persecuted, quietly securing ourselves in the Love of God. Fearful people become defensive, shrill, and angry. It is time we read, with new understanding, the story of those first Christians recorded in Acts that show us that God keeps His Church alive. They lived in a hostile world, often hated, but they were not angry or complaining.
Because of the new life of the Spirit they were “humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” They did not fear being overcome by the darkness in which they lived. They believed that the Light they knew would always dispel the darkness. Their witness was not to protest the cruelty of Rome or the unfairness of the local magistrate, it was about the grace of Jesus that made those dead in spirit alive to God!
The Truth in which we live is unyielding to cultural pressure, unconcerned about polls or acceptance, but it is never arrogant. As the people of God we must learn to show that same compassion that Jesus showed for the wayward and lost people that He encountered. Did He attack the adulterous woman that ‘religious leaders’ dragged to him for judgment? No! He met her with loving acceptance, offered a new way, and pointed her to God’s redemption so that she could ‘go and sin no more!’ Did He demean Zacchaeus, the collaborator with Rome, a tax collector, and a cheat? No! He scandalized the ‘religious community’ when He went to his house for dinner and, while there, laid out the message of God’s redeeming grace. What happened? The greedy crook was transformed and gave away his ill-gotten wealth!
Our Gospel is about Christ Jesus, about finding life in the Spirit. Jesus did not tell us to go wave banners, form coalitions, or elect people to office to protect our privileges. He told us that we are “the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-17, NIV)
Yes, loving God and His Word, will put us at odds with the world. That has always been the case. We need have no concern about our ‘relevance’ or public acceptance. We must be people of integrity who are committed to living His Word in its entirety. God’s people will value the gift of life, but not just when it comes to abortion. They will be resistant to war, to systems that deprive people of their lives through oppression. God’s people will care deeply about the covenant of marriage and demonstrate their love of God by preserving their own family values rather than noisily attacking same sex marriage. God’s people will love those of every color, welcoming all into the fellowship of the Lord.
Christians major on the Gospel because they know that real transformation is not a legislation issue, but requires a new heart given by God through His Spirit. We preach Christ, not rules. He makes us righteous and should others turn on us because we bear His name with humble integrity, we are quietly glad.
Here’s a word from the Word. “Be happy if you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God will come upon you. If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his wonderful name! … So if you are suffering according to God’s will, keep on doing what is right, and trust yourself to the God who made you, for he will never fail you.” (1 Peter 4:14-16, 19, NLT) Now there is food for thought.
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light my strength my song
This Cornerstone this solid Ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love what depths of peace
When fears are stilled when strivings cease
My Comforter my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand
In Christ alone who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
No guilt in life no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
‘Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand
Keith Getty | Stuart Townend © 2001 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) CCLI License # 810055