Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. I Corinthians 16:13
This morning, I found myself discouraged as I browsed my Facebook feed – overwhelmed with how drastically my worldview and faith differ from the people and culture around me. Yes, part of this reaction has to do with the recent Grammy Awards show. I didn’t watch it, but saw lots of comments praising the show’s stand against those who would “play God” by opposing marriage equality. “Love is Love,” after all, and God loves everyone. It’s hard to argue with that, right? Because the fact of the matter is, God does love everyone. And the debate over homosexuality is certainly NOT the only place my faith comes into question. In fact, I find myself discouraged and confused more and more often…watching the news…talking with friends…reading endless debates on Facebook. I increasingly wonder: “How will I ever teach my children to hold firm to the Christian Faith when the world around them vehemently disapproves? How can I protect them from a society (and even from other professing Christians) who label them as hateful bigots, judgmental, and ignorant?” Pondering these thoughts over my beloved cup of morning coffee, I was suddenly struck with a feeling of foolishness. Of course the world will oppose my faith. Of course our culture will revile and insult me. More specifically, the powers of darkness and the devil who rules this world, will do everything possible to sway the security and confidence of my faith. It has always been so. (For examples, see THE BIBLE). I cannot protect my children from such worldly opposition, nor should I want to.
I am incredibly sheltered from the kind of horrible persecution that countless believers face across the globe. Because of this, it’s easy to forget that I’m SUPPOSED to be divergent…no matter the cost. Here in America, we (Christians included) are enamored with accepting and being ACCEPTED by everyone. We never want to offend anyone for fear that they might stop liking us (yours truly is definitely guilty of this). “Political Correctness” and “Tolerance” have become our idols…little gods before whom we readily bow and obey. In an effort to appease these powerful “gods,” we have decided to make Jesus more “palatable.” Like airbrushing a photo, we like to smooth Him out around the edges…make His message easier to swallow. Jesus has become his own Baskin Robins shop, with “31 flavors” of fun to try. Depending on whom we are around, we choose our Jesus carefully. For the sake of “love” we shut our mouths; we avoid conflict over areas of disagreement; we pretend we all believe the same. But we don’t. We just don’t. The Church and the World are oil and water. (For examples, see THE BIBLE).
Yes, Yes, I hear you protesting loud and clear, “But how do we know which ‘flavor’ is the right one?” Who am I to arrogantly decide that a certain version of Jesus is correct? Simply put, I am not the one to decide. That, my friend, is another blog post all together (or perhaps a book or two or ten). An adequate discussion would necessarily include the sacred Scripture, the Creeds, the Church Councils, and the teaching of the Holy Fathers…at the very least. BUT one thing I do know is what Jesus DOESN’T taste like…He doesn’t taste PLEASING or DESIRABLE to the world (to those who are non-believers). Jesus said that the world would hate His followers…they would hate us because they HATED Him.
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you:‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. (John 5:18-21)
It stands to reason, then, that we should be at least a little bit suspicious, if the “Jesus” being preached is readily accepted and embraced by the world (i.e. the media). It is tempting, oh so tempting, to go for the sweet, delicious “chocolate chunk Jesus”…the Jesus that agrees with everyone and doesn’t demand any discomfort or sacrifice on our part. The problem is, “chocolate chunk Jesus” is poisonous…his message goes down well enough, but kills us in the end. It is a false Jesus…an “anti-Christ,” if you will. Paul warned us not to be swayed by easy and appetizing beliefs:
3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded,endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:3-5)
I pray the Lord would make me brave enough to disagree with the world around me…to teach my kids to disagree, boldly and LOVINGLY. I pray that God would empower me to care less about people liking me and more about submitting to His reign and authority. I want my children to see that the real Jesus doesn’t conform Himself to the most fashionable beliefs of the moment (and neither should we; see Romans 12:1-2). The real Jesus isn’t “chocolate chunk” or “strawberry swirl” or whatever else we want Him to be. The real Jesus was and is offensive and challenging enough to the sentiments of society that people wanted to kill him…not hold his hand and sing “Kum ba yah.” That’s the Jesus I want to follow…even if when it’s really hard.
One last and important note: as I’ve said, the real Jesus was/is offensive, but He does not advocate or command violence. He promised that the world would persecute His followers – NOT the other way around. Having strong convictions does not mean forcing my beliefs on others, acting violently, or persecuting those who disagree. It is a sad, sad thing when people confuse the two.