Sunday, April 22, 2012

Why People Should Hate You

"The Christian Martyrs Last Prayer" - Painting by Leon Gerome
"You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved."
-Jesus, Matthew 10:22
Jesus warned his followers that the world would hate them. Today, we hold onto this warning, as we witness the ongoing martyrdom of Christians from around the world. In many countries, Christians' human rights are violated on account of their faith. Churches are being burned, pastors imprisoned or killed, and many people are forced to flee their country - if not underground.
Persecuted Countries
I understand that many people face injustice on account of other faiths or unaffiliated reasons around the world, but I find it interesting that one man holds himself responsible for the persecution and deaths of his own followers.
The number of martyrs [in the period 2000-2010] was approximately 1 million. Compare this to an estimated 34,000 Christian martyrs in 1900.
-George Weigel
This begs the question, what was so threatening about the message of Jesus that would demand hatred from everyone? And who is everyone, anyway?

When we look at the way Jesus is depicted by the Bible, there is one thing that is inescapable. He clearly thought he was a king. If his goal was simply introducing moral behaviour, it is fair to say he did this poorly. I think there is something to be said about people who wish to take only the morals of Jesus and leave his apolitical agenda aside; it's a tad bit extreme. Take these, for example:
A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice.
-C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

So why does pairing these morals with Jesus' politics make any difference?
“My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”
-Jesus, John 18:36
A Donkey Symbolizes Peace
The politics of a king are concerning his kingdom. For Jesus, it is also about a God who keeps His promise to make the nation of Israel a nation of priests. Because of this oath, Jesus is the guarantor of a better covenant. His message identified the true enemy of Israel not as Rome (nor is it now Palestine), but as sin and Satan. He was proclaiming the inauguration of a spiritual kingdom. The morals of Jesus should be equated to spiritual kingdom arsenal. Therefore, as soldiers of the Lord's army, we are not required to carry a gun; on the contrary, we are required not to.
If crucifixion is the coronation ceremony of our king, then you know this is not a kingdom that will progress through force.
-Bruxy Cavey, Why Did Jesus Die?
This is a hard pill to swallow for many of us as Christians, and that is evidenced throughout our history.   We either demoralize Jesus' politics, or depoliticize His morals. With the church institution perpetually being defined as a moral compass, it becomes compromised in politics, and subsequently loses in the end. In fact, the Catholic Church has failed to convince anyone that they are a force for good in the world any more. This is simply not an effort we can expect to see fruition from in this life. Steve Wilmshurst puts it aptly:
It is the overlap of the ages which produces the ongoing collision of the kingdoms and its attendant conflict: the Kingdom inaugurated by Jesus' mission is neither entirely ‘now' nor entirely ‘yet to come'. Thus there are two possible errors here. We could confine the Kingdom largely to the future, denying its effective presence in the world for today and minimizing its political dimension. . . On the other hand, to believe that the Kingdom can be fulfilled within the present age – the dream of certain liberal optimists and Christian socialists – is to ignore the plain teaching of Scripture, supported by our own experience that the power of sin and evil does not look like fading away! . . . The Kingdom's demands are so fundamental that they replace or transform our adherence to every other group, national, ethnic or cultural. . . The way of the Kingdom is to scatter the proud and bring oppressive rulers down from their thrones.
North Korean Christians Praying
What are the reasons people hate you? Are you kingdom-minded?
"We ask North Korean underground church members how we can pray for them," says Eric Foley. "And they answer, 'Pray for us? We pray for you!'" Foley explains, "When we ask them why, they say, 'Because you American Christians put so much confidence in your wealth and freedom that you don't fully know what it's like to be able to trust only in God.'"
-Pam Sparks, Christian News Wire
How has excess and freedom affected your ability to rely on God?
Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written, "I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it," says the Lord. . . Don't let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.
-Paul the Apostle, Martyred in Rome, 65 AD

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