The Real Haters

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“The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because
I testify that its works are evil.”
John 7:7

According to the Gospel of 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 a little tired of hearing the world preach at the church, of unbelievers telling believers what they’re supposed to be and do. They don’t know jack about jack. But that’s to be expected. Ignorance breeds experts. What’s really troubling, however, is how many Christians are actually buying the bull. A whole lot of us are bending over backwards to be the kind of Christian everybody will like. And when we’re assaulted with Bible verses (ripped from all context) that seem to support a radically different, culturally more acceptable version of Jesus and Christianity—well, what are we meek and mild saints to do?

Devil25It’s the same old song and dance, my friends, and exactly the clumsy religious slight-of-hand the devil himself tried to pull on Jesus 2000 years ago. 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

It should be no surprise that the same clunky strategy is being deployed today against the church by her frothing critics:

1. If you are a real 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. The devil may be clever but he is astonishingly stupid. The same is true today. By very definition non-Christians understand nothing—absolutely nothing—about God, Jesus, the church, or the way the world is supposed to work. They have rejected the truth and embraced a lie. As Dante put it, unbelievers “have lost the good of the intellect.” Unfortunately, a lot of Christians, fearful of reproach or genuinely confused, are entertaining the culture’s shallow interpretations and willful misreadings of Scripture—and are jumping off the roof of the temple.

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 despise righteousness, reject repentance, and heap scorn on the church while ferociously arguing that it is Christians, not they, who must repent. Wielding the latest cultural absolutes and cherry-picked Bible verses, they slash at the very roots of Biblical Christianity, license their own sinfulness, and shred the only hope of salvation for themselves and for everybody else. Better to rule in hell than serve in heaven.

The church’s answer to this spirit of antichrist (for that is what it is) is not to return hate for hate or rhetoric for rhetoric; it is faithfulness to the Biblical call for repentance from acts that lead to death and a bold insistence on the exclusive sufficiency of Jesus Christ. There is no muting the offense of the cross, ladies and gentlemen. To those who insist on perishing, this message will always be foolish no matter how it’s packaged, but for those who believe—for everyone who believes—it is the very power of God for salvation. That’s the way it works.

The haters are gonna hate, my Christian comrades. Get used to it. But as Jesus reminds us, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” So take an aspirin, take your punches, steady the rudder, and lean into the wind. You’re in good company.

.   .   .

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