John 12:42-43 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.
We have this problem today that we encounter everywhere – and it is a major problem. In Scripture it is reflected by Nathanael’s blunt comment to hearing Philip excitedly telling him about Jesus of Nazareth, the one written about by Moses and the prophets, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46)
Substitute the word Christianity into Nathanael’s sentence for Nazareth and couple it with an attitude of condescension and we have the problem we are facing nearly everywhere in Western Civilization. It’s in academia, business, media, government, courts – basically everywhere. It’s similar to evolution in that it’s poor theory that’s accepted as true (I will deal with evolution this coming week). Religion is viewed as a waste if your ‘given’ is there is no God.
But this perception and accompanying attitudes don’t exist in a vacuum. They are rooted in forces that have no doubt as to the deadly threat posed to them by scriptural Christianity that is truly lived out. Most of the world has no idea they are pawns in the hands of evil powers. Paul addresses them 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.
Their goal is to stamp Christianity out! Do anything to keep Christians from tapping into the power they truly have in Christ. In the face of this politically correct societal dismissal, the issue becomes how are Jesus followers going to respond?
Unfortunately, when our walk is weak, we have a tendency to follow the path painfully described by today’s verse – we respond out of fear because we love the praise of men more than the praise of God – OUCH! That’s why we have been provided with the armor of God and the command to put it on. (Ephesian 6:10-18) This armor is vital to being strong in the Lord and able to stand.
When we stand, we don’t respond with anger, shaking our fists at those who oppose us. But we stand strong and secure in our Lord with our response reflecting our faith, rooted in righteousness and glorifying Jesus. At times we’ll suffer negative consequences, but even then we must do so with fruit of the Spirit attitudes.
After all, our joy and our lives are centered in pleasing God – not men.