Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Ignorance and Hate: Subtle Animosity (part 2)

I was handing out gospel tracts during a visit to the grocery store (I come close to emptying my pockets sharing the gospel this way. I primarily keep my eye out for bored people who are tagging along while someone else does the shopping—they would do nearly anything to pass the time, so gospel tracts are a great diversion). I rounded the corner and passed by a small elderly African-American woman pushing her basket. I extended a gospel tract to her, “May God bless you as you read this.” She put her hand out to take it, and asked, “What is it?”

“It’s a gospel tract,” I replied, then repeated, “May God bless you as you read this.”

This dear old lady snapped her hand back like I had slapped it and turned her head as if I’d suddenly gone invisible. “No! I don’t want that from you!” She quickened her pace away from me. My heart broken from her reaction, I was nearly weeping when I spoke a half-hearted “Good evening” to her. I don’t know how to wish someone’s grandmother (or great-grandmother) a good evening after rejecting the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ gospel like that.

Where is the God of love? They just rejected Him. “He’s back there, where you put Him down, ma’am”. God loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. The world hates the Son, the expression of God’s love and by extension, hates the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we move through the world preaching the Lord Jesus Christ, of his death, burial, resurrection, of repentance and reconciliation with the Father, we should expect opposition. The Lord Jesus Christ is a threat to the relativism of the ages because He disallows persons to do what they want for themselves. Paul was inspired to encourage the Ephesians, “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.” (Eph. 5:11)

Tertullian was treated as a criminal for being a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. His “Apology,” contains his objections to this treatment by showing that his persecutors were acting from their own ignorance, they knew nothing of the Lord Jesus Christ and the doctrines of faith. We note that the unjust behavior he spoke against in his day (160 – 220 A.D.) was nothing new, and it is certainly old news in our own. Jesus knew about hatred and of the ignorance of the men who exercised that hatred, so He prepared His followers for their share of the animosity.

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” (John 15:18-25)

The greatest points of offense in bringing the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ into the world is just that—bringing the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The first commandment is that one would have no other gods “in the face” of the true and living God (from the sense of the Hebrew text) and to love the Lord your God with all heart, mind, soul and strength. The world does not recognize the Lord as its’ God and there is no urgency in loving Him. Loving Him means that something must be done with sin, and the world loves its’ sin too much.

The response of the world is to create for itself a god of its own understanding. God says, “I am like THIS.” The world says, “That is offensive. I actually think you are like THIS.” Is God supposed to say, “Oh, I see. Thanks!”

This attempted re-creation of God is called idolatry, and breaks the second commandment. More sin. Once people have a god that pleases them, they go about claiming to worship the true and living God. This is blasphemy, breaking the third commandment. More sin.

Tertullian helped us understand that ignorance fuels persecution. Ignorance can be identified through the way people respond to truth (apathy), religious superstition and moral or spiritual deviation (idolatry). The depravity of man’s sinfulness is exposed in the blinding whiteness of God’s holiness.

I am so thankful for the grace our Lord shows to His disciples, for His teaching is not this, “hard time’s a-coming, so good luck!” kind of teaching. He gives us the rest of the story long before Paul Harvey:

"But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” (John 15:26-27)

Introducing Christ to the world is not dependent on me. The Father sends the Spirit of Truth to bear witness of Jesus. We bear witness of Jesus because of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, both as recipients of the gospel and as vehicles of the gospel. When the Holy Spirit is leading, the Lord Jesus Christ is thrust to the forefront. We speak the truth in love to the world.

But what then? Sort of back at “square one,” aren’t we? We are to meet opposition with truth, grace and love. We are to meet opposition by telling in the power of the Holy Spirit what really “is.” The Lord Jesus Christ heaps a blessing on His disciples who speak out for Him, “Blessed are those who have been allowing themselves to be persecuted.” (Matthew 5:10-11). Suffering for truth brings harassment, evil treatment, and might mean perhaps being chased away. The Lord’s workers are insulted, verbally abused, attacked viciously. Good news brings slander on the one who bears it, and this can be the most difficult because our effectiveness is directly related to our personal integrity.

It's hard getting punched in the proverbial gut after experiencing rejection, but it is not an individual suffering. It is a badge of honor that is passed down from generation to generation until the Lord comes.

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