How often are you threatened for believing in Jesus Christ? If you live in America, the answer is probably “Never.” So let’s take it down a notch. How often do you experience push-back from the world? When I say “push-back” I’m talking about opposition to your beliefs. That opposition could take the form of someone treating you condescendingly, your beliefs causing you to lose a friendship, or outright ridicule from others. How often do you experience that? My answer is: “Hardly ever.” There is a problem with the fact that occasions of persecution in our lives are so few-and-far-between.
If our goal is to be like Christ, then our actions should be provoking a lot more attention and a lot more derision from the world. Jesus says in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you.” I looked up the word “hate” in the original Greek. Do you know what it means? Hate. I don’t know about you, but there are not a lot of people that I could say hate me. Dislike? Maybe. But Hate? I probably couldn’t think of a single person. Jesus continues in verse 19 saying, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” There’s that word “hate” again.
You probably have two questions/objections to what I’m saying. You’re probably asking:
1) What if I’m just a likeable person?
2) What if in my social circles I just don’t encounter people who believe differently than me very often?
Well, in answer to the first question, you very well could be a likeable person who people naturally like, but for everyone to like you is evidence of something else. Jesus proclaimed, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). If everyone likes us, then we probably aren’t taking a stand for the truth often enough. Taking a stand for the truth is like trying to walk into the wind. If you’re not experiencing any resistance, then you’re probably lying down.
In answer to the second question, the people we are engaging can also tell us a lot about our motives. If the only people we ever interact with are those that believe the same things we do, then we are wasting our time. Yes we need to be in relationship with other believers, but if we never intentionally engage non-believers we are ignoring Christ’s command to preach the Gospel.
In John 17, Jesus again says that the world will hate us (John 17:14). What is their reason for hating us? Because we are not of the world just as Christ is not of the world. Jesus continues in verses 15, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.”
Jesus calls us to be in the world but not of the world. Light and darkness cannot coexist, so when we bring light into the darkness obviously the darkness that fills this world is going to fight back. Billy Graham said, “The cross is offensive because it confronts people and evils that dominate so much of this world.”
If we are not experiencing resistance from the world we can be certain of one thing: we are conforming to it.