By Joel A. Hess –
Often during the election year, I find myself drawn to the political candidate whom the left hates the most. Well, not the intellectual left, as I respect the left, but the Miley Cyrus, Sean Penn, and Rachel Maddow shallow-screaming left. But is that a good strategy for picking a political candidate? Of course not!
Sadly, many in the various church bodies allow hate to validate their beliefs and actions. Last year, a Jehovah’s Witness family came by while I was working in the garden. They shared the ‘good news’ with me. I began to gently lead them to see Jesus as God and savior. They saw where I was going and got a little red. I shared the full Gospel of God dying for sinners. They asked if we could agree to disagree, to which I said “No, you can’t really do this with Jesus. He’s kind of egotistical.” Well, they left in a huff. And I am sure they enjoyed their ‘persecution.’ To be persecuted is one of the goals of Jehovah Witnesses. They claim that it validates their theology because, after all, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for my sake…” They love it when hate validates. It’s actually a central teaching of their cult and many other cults.
Recently, I read an article where the author invited his readers to make sure the ‘right’ people hate them. He rightly noted that, while many leftist and anti-Christian communities hate Christianity today, it was not those sort of people who tangled with Jesus in Scriptures. In other words, we don’t find a gay couple taking Jesus to court for not making a wedding cake, or an atheist picketing a Jesus symposium while He proclaims to be God. Instead, those who hated Jesus and persecuted him were those who were ‘in’ the church, not ‘outside.’ Jesus’ haters were those who believed in God, knew His law well, but were really mad at Jesus’ interpretation of God’s grace.
Therefore, the writer suggested that the reader should re-evaluate what he is teaching if his haters are ‘the world.’ Perhaps the reader should be confident in what he believes if people within the church hate him. You know, ‘those’ legalists.
While I definitely get the writer’s impulse, this advise lacks logic. Don’t let hate validate, ever! Just because the ‘right’ people hate you doesn’t mean you are right. Let Scriptures validate. Those who hated Jesus were ALWAYS people who didn’t want to let go of their sin. And they enjoyed a social status that reinforced their self-righteousness. The Pharisees’ central fault was not that they were hung up on other people’s sins or Jesus’ grace for sinners. Oh, they were definitely upset about both; however, their foundational error rested on their inability to see their own sin and need of mercy. If they would have understood that, they would have understood Jesus.
Pharisees are not just within the church but also without! There are atheist Pharisees, militant LGBTQRSY Pharisees, High Church Pharisees, and cowo-charismatic Pharisees, etc.
The world hates Jesus, His teaching (all of Scripture), and His Church ultimately because we are all born haters of God. As haters of God, we all tend to hate to be corrected, to be told we are wrong, or to get knocked of our horse. Oh, I know, dear reader. You know better, as you love to hear that you are a stuck in the primordial mud sinner saved by grace alone. But that Pharisee lurks in you. That ole Adam will cling to anything to avoid being completely evacuated of all his pride. That ole Adam needs to get his ass kicked, not just through God’s Word, but in life in order to let go. I hope you have experienced this in your life at some point.
So don’t be surprised or upset when people hate you or the church. It may mean you are speaking the truth, or it may mean you are talking like a self-righteous bully. Surely you should reflect on that, but don’t ever let haters be your sole validators. There’s always going to be all kind of haters. May God’s Word be the only mirror you look in.