Monday, May 04, 2015

A Thought for Monday 4 May 2015

“If the world hates you, you know it hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own.  Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”  John 15:18-19 NKJV

The election season is a good portrayal of what Jesus is talking about, although I would not liken politics to faith.  What I mean is that when a person announces his or her political candidacy, the guns of opposition are locked and loaded.  These wanna-be’s have sky-lined themselves for all to see, so they become the latest targets not only for the opposition but for the media as well. 

The same might be said of publicly announcing one’s allegiance to Jesus.  I don’t mean from the safety of a computer keyboard or the sanctuary of a church.  I mean daily living, making deliberate choices to defy the world and its demands, to deny oneself of the world’s empty promises and take up one’s own cross for the Eternal Promise.  To challenge what the world declares to be “normal”, and choose something better and more lasting.  To worship when the lake or the golf course would be so much more fun.  To study the Scripture when reading “Fifty Shades of Grey” or watching a favorite TV show might be a little more exciting.  To decline a social invitation in favor of a prayer or Bible study group.  To do those things that distinguish us from the rest of the world.  To hungrily pursue righteousness rather than popularity.

These are the things that leave no doubt in the minds of others where our allegiance is.  We make deliberate religious choices by declining other social choices.  While we certainly make some choices based on our own desires and what we may feel like doing, the truth is when we are invited to a social or sporting event that will come only occasionally but will interfere with a religious event (say Sunday worship), we will reason that we can “always” go to church, but we will not always have this particular opportunity.  We are also aware that if we decline too many social invites, we risk not being invited again.

What we are looking for is social acceptance AND Divine acceptance; the respectability of Christianity and the acceptability of our unchurched friends.  We do not want to be socially ostracized and labeled “Jesus freaks”.

Our Lord understands all of this.  Having created us to live in community, He knows exactly how we are wired.  We need the company of others.  We need to be married and make a life with someone.  We need to have children and grandchildren.  We need community at least on some basic level.  But we need also to “seek first the Kingdom of Heaven” and then trust that everything else will work out for the Glory of God and for our well-being.  We need to trust that Jesus means everything He says.

But first deliberate choices must be made, and these choices go beyond “one-and-done” event.  These are choices to be made daily and for reasons often beyond our capacity to understand – at least at first.  Jesus assures us, however, that as difficult as the choices may seem at least initially, over time we will learn to look upward rather than outward – and for reasons we will soon begin to understand.  It is why Jesus encourages His followers to “ask”, to “seek”, to “knock” not once or occasionally but constantly.  This is how you and I know someone is serious about a relationship with us.  Why would The Lord look at us any differently?  “Those who persevere to the end will be saved.”

We are first to judge our allegiances and faith by the deliberate choices we make and why we make those choices.  It always comes down to whom we are trying to please: a culture that will certainly fade in time by death or fickle choices, or the Kingdom which is everlasting.  We need not worry ourselves about the hatred that comes from the world; for as with terror groups or popular-clique groups, there is no appeasement to be found – not without compromising our integrity and the character of our faith.

Jesus said, “If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father.  But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law; ‘They hated Me without a cause’.”

This means they have seen and have witnessed and have experienced all we have seen and witnessed and experienced; and they made a choice to decline by word and deed.  Let us not make the same mistake.



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