John 15:18 If the world hates you, keep in mind in mind that it hated me first.
Today is Ash Wednesday. See if you notice any people with ashes on their foreheads today. Hopefully you will be able to attend a service today as we begin the Lenten season. May our focus upon Jesus increase in these coming days leading to Easter as we draw ever closer to Him. ***********
Have you ever been bullied? Have you ever been one of those people that a bully looked for and as soon as he saw you he came running to mess with you? Fortunately such things typically only happen to some of us when we’re children. Plus we live in a western culture where such behavior is generally disapproved of.
But think of being in a culture where this type of behavior is a way of life and instead of the bully being an individual, it is a group, or mob or even family. Worse still consider the reality that all ages are affected by such groups – not just children – and it includes anything from beating to burning to killing. Becoming a target, results in the reality that it could cost you your life. So, what makes a person a target of such groups?
In many places in the world today, becoming a follower of Jesus Christ makes one a target of such groups, resulting in severe, often bloody persecution. Conversion to Jesus Christ requires a price that many in the West just don’t realize. Fortunately Jesus is more than worth the price!
We encounter discrimination and persecution but it is more in the context of Christian activities being excluded from all manner of places where they have always existed: Merry Christmas becomes Happy Holidays; Christmas vacation becomes Winter break; no prayers at graduation ceremonies; situations in the military where Chaplains are ordered not to pray in the name of Jesus. There is also a growing perversion of the rule of law where Christian beliefs are not protected by the 1st Amendment (Freedom of Religion). Think of bakers and same-sex weddings or requiring abortion coverage by all.
We have had a rule of law here that has protected us. But in too many other parts of the world that law doesn’t exist or is ignored. There, becoming a believer in Jesus Christ often results in disowning, disinheritance, expulsion, arrest or death – by stoning, beheading, burning or even crucifixion. The hatred that Jesus spoke of (today’s verse) is alive and well in the world.
People all over the world – today – are being tortured, beaten, enslaved, imprisoned and broken because of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Recognizing the love of God and Jesus Christ as Lord & Savior, triggers a hateful revenge in so many places that we in the west are often clueless about. But this is what so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are facing and experiencing.
We must remember the spiritual reality that exists in all this. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Fortunately, Jesus has equipped us all to face and overcome such opposition, “because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4b)