In the previous post, we looked at what Jesus expects Christian friendship to look like. It is self-sacrificing, deliberate, and it perseveres. This passage is going to talk about the opposite of friendship: hateful opposition. This is, inevitably, the sort of treatment that every friend of Jesus will receive from the world.
First, if you are a Christian, you need to settle a very important fact in your heart: you will never be better than Jesus. That may seem very obvious, and most Christians would immediately protest that they would never even entertain such a notion. Yet, the truth of the matter is, we think that we are more clever than Jesus all the time. Here's how we do it.
Most of us like to get along with others. We want everyone to be our friend. We exert a great deal of energy being politically correct, choosing our words carefully so as not to offend, and generally avoiding conflict as if it were the mother of all sins. We are artists as pacifying and befriending others, often in harmful ways.
As Christians, we know that it is our duty to proclaim the gospel. We also know that, if we speak the gospel, it is going to bring conflict. If we present the gospel to an unbeliever, some nasty things are bound to come up in that conversation:
1. We actually believe that if the other person does not repent and believe in Jesus that they will die and go to hell.
2. We actually believe that they deserve hell.
3. We do not think that they are good people. We believe them to be wicked.
That's just to name a few of the potential deal-breakers if we are honest about what we believe. Jesus said things like this all the time. The Bible clearly teaches that man is sinful and that apart from the risen Savior, there is no hope at all. The Bible is clear about the reality of hell and it is equally clear that those who reject Jesus Christ deserve to go there. We know that. We believe that.
However, we believe that we may present these truths in such a way that the world will still like us. And if we believe that, if we try to fool ourselves with that notion, then we are really saying that we are better than Jesus.
Let me be crystal clear, Jesus Christ was the friendliest, wittiest, sincerest, cleverest man to ever walk the face of the other. He also happens to be the greatest preacher in the history of the world. He was also a divinely gifted healer. Jesus caused the blind to see, the lame to walk, and he cleansed people riddled with deadly disease. You and I cannot do anything better than Jesus. And what did the world do to Jesus? They murdered him because they hated his guts.
So please, let's dispel the silly notion once and for all that we may somehow coddle wicked worldlings into liking us to the point that they won't be mad when we tell them that they must repent and believe in Jesus. Here's what Jesus said:
1. The world hated me.
2. If you are my friend, the world will hate you too.
3. You are not better than me. If the world hated me, it will hate you.
If your church is presently scheming to plan services to make lost people feel comfortable in the service, they have to betray Jesus to do it. Period. You can make people feel welcome, and you should. You can fluff them a pillow, give them a nice footstool, let them sit in a Lazy-Boy during the service, and you can even make them nice lattes for the service. No matter how kind you are, if your pastor stands up like a man after God's own heart and preaches the gospel, worldlings will spew their lattes at you and leave unless the Spirit of God does a miracle in their hearts. It's sad but true. We don't want them to react that way. We grieve that they react that way. But they do, and they will. Every single time.
For clarity's sake let me say that just because the world is hateful, that does not give us cause to be hateful. We were all once worldlings. We were all once lost and spiteful to Christians and Jesus. Our proper response is grief, long-suffering, patience, cheek-turning, and above all, prayer. Prayer that God will open eyes, ears, and hearts to the gospel for the glory of Jesus Christ. That was the response of Jesus, and it is to be our response as well.
Put to death the notion that you will be more clever than Jesus by getting the world to be your friend. If you do, you are a compromiser.
James said it this way, "You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4). James really knew how to coddle people, didn't he? Here's one from Paul, "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim. 3:12). That little word there translated "all" is the Greek word pantes. It literally means, "all". Which is exactly how it translated in every translation I've ever seen. And "all" means you, beloved. It means you and I will be persecuted if we are the friend of Jesus because the world will hate us like it hated him. If the world doesn't hate you, it is because you are acting like it and they can't tell you are Jesus' friend. You people pleaser! You are fooling around with the enemy and betraying your best friend to make friends with wickedness. It's despicable behavior unbecoming a follower of Jesus and you should repent immediately.
I don't know what else to say about that. I confess that I'm given to wimpiness in the face of the world. So pray for me for boldness. I didn't say a thing here that didn't convict me; I write as the chief of sinners.