The Reality of Persecution
Read John 15:18-27
"If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you."
As our culture embraces secularism and its view of morality, it is becoming increasingly hostile towards the morality of the Bible. For years, many blamed the church itself for not being liked by the secular culture. Certainty it is true that the church has done things in the past that some have rightly criticized. Nevertheless, Christ points out that it is inevitable that the world comes into conflict with his followers. It should not cause us concern when our culture rejects our message. If we take Christ's words seriously, then persecution and rejection are a reality. Instead, when the church becomes acceptable to the world, then there is a cause for concern. To compromise with the world ultimately involves a rejection of Christ. The two are mutually exclusive. James issues a stern, "friendship with the world is hostility towards God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4). These echo the words of Christ when Christ states because the world rejected him, they will reject his followers (Matthew 10:24-25). When our morality and worldview align with the world, then the church is in trouble.
This conflict is grounded in sin's presence and the sinful nature that stands against God's righteousness. The fall of man brought sin into the world and placed sinful humanity in conflict with a holy God. Instead of living in fellowship with God, we became enemies of him. Paul writes in Romans 8:6-8, "For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." But this conflict goes beyond the values and morality of the Bible versus the prevailing morality of the world. It stems from Satan's attempt to undermine and destroy God's work and his people. We not only live in a physical world, but we also live in a spiritual world, where the forces of Satan are bent on destroying the church. Paul points to this as the ultimate source of the conflict when he writes, "for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12). In other words, we are not to see those who reject and oppose our message as the enemy, but instead, we are to see them as captured by the enemy and in desperate need of the freedom Christ offers.
As we interact with the world, we are not to surrender to the pressure to compromise, nor are we to view them as the enemy to attack. Instead, we are to stand firm in the face of the pressure, recognizing that it an inherent part of being a disciple. To do this, we must focus on proclaiming the message of Christ and the hope he gives for eternal life. We are to stand firm against the sin of the world, but not in hostility towards people, but in love seeking to communicate the hope of salvation even if they reject the message.