Read: John 15
“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.” (John 15:18-19)
It is a real dilemma for Christians: God loves the world so much that he gave his Son to die for it, but the world hates God (they didn’t like his Son too much either) because it belongs to the Evil One. But wait, there is more: The story that he has commissioned his followers to bring to the world, called the Good News, is received most of the time as bad news because it first has to deal with the problem of human sin—which kind of makes sinners a bit uncomfortable. Hold on, I’m not through yet: You and I belong to God, and since Satan, the current strong man who dominates this world and its inhabitants, hates God and every thing of God, we are included in that hatred. Jesus couldn’t have put it in any clearer terms:
“Since I picked you to live on God’s terms and no longer
on the world’s terms, the world is going to hate you.”
(John 15:19, Message)
Now that is tough to swallow, especially in our culture, where Christians have been brought up for the last couple generations on a steady diet of positive mental attitude pablum, seeker sensitive evangelism, and a church growth movement that tries everything in its power to make the unbeliever want to come to church. For the last thirty years, a great many churches in the western world have placed more emphasis on making sinners comfortable than making committed disciples, which requires preaching Christ and him crucified. More energy and resources have been devoted to creative messaging and capturing the “cool factor” than cross-bearing discipleship.
Don’t believe me? Just walk into any number of church lobbies, and you will feel like you are in a Starbucks rather than a sanctuary’s vestibule. When the service starts, listen to the music and you will think you are listening to America’s Top 40 in a sea of concert-goers enjoying a rock concert rather than among engaged worshipers offering up the sacrifice of praise to please their God. Sit through a sermon and you will think you have just listened to a hybrid of David Letterman and Tony Robbins helping you to laugh your way in seven easy steps to your best life now. Check out the altar call at the end of the message, if there even is one, and you will think people have just signed up for a thirty-day free trial of Netflix.
What you are unlikely to find, though, is any talk of sin—it just makes people feel too uncomfortable. You may not hear words like “repentance” or “surrender” or “obedience” or “Lordship”—it may just scare the pre-Christians away. What you are going to hear, however, is what I would call a Burger King Christianity—you know, the kind that says, “special orders don’t upset us…have it your way.”
Now listen, I am not just a grouchy, out-of-touch, aging pastor—okay, I am at least one of those. I don’t think preachers ought to go out of their way to be offensive. I do believe that churches ought to think creatively about reaching the disinterested and hostile in their community. I love excellence, and think the church service ought to be a first class affair—we are worshiping the King of kings after all. And by all means, believers ought to do what they can to build bridges to the lost people in their lives.
But our job is neither to impress the world by trying to be a cool version of it or to tell it that everything is mostly okay with it—except for a few minor adjustments. Our job is to talk about the Good News that Jesus died for our sins—sins that had separated us and made us hostile to a holy God. Once we deal with the sin issue through proclaiming the truth in grace and love, inviting sinners back to God through the repentance of sin and calling them into a surrendered lifestyle of committed, cross-bearing discipleship, both we and the sinners we help to rescue will realize that what we have found is something more satisfying, more valuable, more positive by far than anything this world can provide.
Quit worrying about whether the world will like you or not. It won’t—that is guaranteed. If you belong to Jesus, you will be hated, but that is okay, because God loves you. And that is all that matters.
“Jesus Christ did not say, ‘Go into the world and tell the world that it is quite right.’” ~C.S. Lewis
What If God Took Over?
How much have you bought into the mentality that your job is to get the world to like you? Ask God to help you jettison that unhealthy need from your life. And take a moment to meditate on I John 2:15 (NLT)
“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.”