“The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because
I testify that its works are evil.”
According to Luke, the devil’s third and final shot at tempting Jesus was to use Scripture to get Jesus to prove himself the Son of God. The devil, frustrated that he couldn’t convince Jesus to join his program, attempts to turn the tables and leverage the Word against the Word. He fails, of course. (Apparently, the devil doesn’t recognize irony.) Jesus counters that the Scriptures cannot legitimately be deployed by the rebellious to justify themselves or judge the godly. In the mouths of unbelievers, the very words of God become chaff. As the Psalmist notes: To the wicked, God says: “What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips?” Jesus knew the devil’s real agenda and was not fooled by his self-serving verse-mongering.
I gotta tell you, I’m pretty much fed up with the world preaching at the church, unbelievers telling Christians what they’re supposed to be and do. They don’t know jack about jack. But that’s to be expected. What’s more troubling, however, is how many Christians are buying into it. A whole lot of them are bending over backwards to be the kind of Christian everybody will like. And when presented with Bible verses that seem to support a radically different version of Christianity than yesterday’s—well, how are you going to argue?
But that’s exactly what the devil was trying to pull on Jesus. Here’s the devil’s rhetorical pattern:
1. If you are the Son of God
2. Throw yourself down from here
3. For it is written
The pattern being deployed today against the church sounds, in general, remarkably similar:
1. If you are a Christian
2. You should be or think or do this
3. Because the Bible says
Jesus did not deny that the devil was quoting actual Scripture; he simply pointed out that the devil was utterly clueless about the meaning of what he was parroting. Unfortunately, a lot of Christians, fearful of reproach and, it seems, genuinely confused, are buying the culture’s shallow misreadings of Scripture—and jumping.
The bald-faced truth of the matter is that the world hates Jesus. Its mantra, evidenced every day, is Anything But Christ. The real haters, as Jesus pointed out, reject the call to repentance, heaping scorn on a church that insists on it while ferociously arguing that it is Christians, not they, who must repent. Wielding cherry-picked Bible verses, they slash at the very roots of Biblical Christianity, license their own sinfulness, and obscure the only hope of salvation.
The answer to the spirit of antichrist is not to return hate for hate; it is faithfulness to the Biblical call for repentance from acts that lead to death and for belief in the exclusive sufficiency of Jesus Christ. There is no ameliorating the offense of the cross. To those who insist on perishing, this message will always be foolish, but for those who believe—for everyone who believes—it is the power of God leading to salvation.
The haters are gonna hate, kids. Get used to it. But as Jesus reminds us, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” Take an aspirin. You’re in good company.