Hate is a strong word. But the reality is that Christians are hated. They are hated by those who are “of the world” because those people “hate” Jesus. Such shocking language for our politically correct culture. But who can doubt the truth of it when we observe all the persecution that has happened throughout the history of the church. There have been more martyrs in the last hundred years than ever before. And even in the West, where we enjoy religious freedom, there are increasing pressures on such freedom—and behind the pressures on that religious freedom is a barely concealed, vehement opposition to the very existence of Christians (because there is an opposition to the identity of Christ).
Of course, we are not to blame our identity as Christians when people are annoyed at us because we are simply annoying! But, at the same time, people will rarely oppose Christians overtly because they are Christians—they will oppose them as Christians for other apparent reasons, while the real reason is their identity as Christians.
At any rate, when we experience opposition and persecution, how are we to think about such “hate”? First, remember “a servant is not above his master” (15:20). This is how they treated Christ; this is how they will treat us. Surely it was that thought that comforted the first Christian martyr, Stephen, who at his death spoke in words that reflected the kind of tone that Jesus himself used when he was being crucified. There is something deeply comforting in elevating the significance of our act. What is desperately unbearable about suffering is not merely the pain of suffering, but the fear that it is purposeless. A man or woman will put up with many things if she or he thinks there is a higher purpose. But here it is: Christ was hated, we will be too; we are identified with him. We are not “victims”; we are Christians. And as Christians, we are victorious as Christ was: they cannot kill us for we are already dead to self; they cannot isolate us for Christ never leaves us; they cannot exile us for there is nowhere that Christ is not present. All that only affirms our identity as belonging to the King of kings and Lord of lords!
But secondly, we are also to rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit, the “Helper.” He will “bear witness,” and we too will “bear witness” (15:26-27).
When you are facing persecution or opposition for Christ’s sake, then, remember: Christ was so treated. And also rely upon God’s power in the person of the Holy Spirit as you witness to him through your persecution.
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