Righteous Persecution

“The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.” (John 7:7)

If you read some of the news, you would get the impression that hatred towards Christ and towards followers of Christ is a recent invention. However, that is far from the case. Jesus Himself testified in John 7:7 (quoted above) that the world hated Him. They did so because He testified concerning the world, that its deeds were evil.

Wow. This is quite a statement. Jesus is saying that the works of the world are evil. It almost seems like He is referring to the whole world. Is Jesus referring to the whole world? In another passage (and we know the Bible does not contradict itself), we read, “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19, emphasis added). So, according to the Bible, how much of the world lies in the power of the evil one (that is, Satan)? The whole world.

Are all deeds unrighteous (that is, sinful)? No. This cannot be the case. Otherwise, we would never be able to obey the command not to sin (Psalm 4:4 and many others). But have all sinned? Yes. The Bible says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Thus, not everything people do is sinful, but all have sinned.

If you keep reading in Romans 3, from the very next verse (Romans 3:24) to Romans 3:26, we find out that though our “starting state” is indeed sinful, our “ending state” does not have to be sinful, but righteous! But this is not a righteousness that we deserve or earn; it is one that is freely given to us by God, who sent Jesus to die for us on the cross. This is the “good news” of the gospel: You can be forgiven. This forgiveness is offered freely to all who will receive it by faith. It is not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The deeds of the whole word are indeed sinful. We have all “blown it”. But God loved us so much that He freely gave His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins. We can receive that forgiveness today. This means that there are now two types of people in the world today: Those who have received God’s forgiveness for their sins, and those who have not. Those who are not followers of Christ are sometimes hostile towards those who are followers of Christ. They are sometimes hostile because followers of Christ testify by their lives and their convictions that sin is real and that Jesus paid the price for it. As they refuse to heed God’s call on their own lives, this can turn into a backlash of persecution against genuine followers of Christ. There is a desire to “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” so that they do not have to deal with their sin. Unfortunately, this will not work, because one day there will be an accounting. Yes, we will all have to stand before God’s judgment seat to give that account. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

It should not be surprising that the world hates Christians. If Christians are truly living for the Lord, then some will. Others will become convicted of theirs sins and repent. Jesus said that those who refuse to repent will perish (Luke 13:5). Jesus warned His listeners of a literal hell, and said, “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:5) It is frightful to think that some people will be cast into hell. Many people cannot tolerate the truth, so when they hear a message like this, it turns to hatred and persecution. The message of hell itself is an indictment on a sinful world. The fact that hell exists means that God will judge evil. In an effort to warn the world about the dangers of hell, Jesus spoke the truth. He spoke the truth in love, and sometimes it was even “tough love” (like the time He drove out the money-changers with a whip). But I say, better to drive out the money-changers now, with a whip made of cords, and warn them of the dangers of practicing sin, in hopes that they might change and amend their ways, than to leave sin unchecked and end up burning in eternal flames. To understand hell, therefore, is to gain a new perspective on the love that Jesus showed when He drove out the money-changers. We may not think of that as a loving act, but it was. It was far more loving than to say and do nothing at all.

Jesus was a man of action. He spoke the truth. He even drove out the money-changers. He did not soft-peddle sin, but warned people about the dangers of it. He warned people about the dangers of hell. And this is why He said, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.” (John 7:7)

I suppose the question we all need to ask ourselves is, “What can I do, or what has God called me to do, so that I might reflect the life of my Savior, and warn others in a likewise manner?” There are many ways to go about this, from being a Daniel who prays three times a day serving the king, to being an apostle Paul who taught in the temple trying to persuade others to trust in Christ. There is an answer to this question (even though I do not know what it is for you personally). Seek Christ and ask Him. Maybe He’s got a radio show lined up for you somewhere. Maybe you can take part in giving to a very needy ministry (check out Martyrs for Christ at www.persecution.com). Maybe you can start a Bible study. Seek Christ and ask Him. But in the end, do not be surprised if — whether frequently or infrequently, I do not know — you are hated by one or more persons on account of your faith. Jesus was hated. And we cannot really expect better than Him. Nevertheless, do not seek persecution, but seek to be at peace with all men (Romans 12:18). But if and when it does happen, you should not be surprised, either.