Because the world has its priorities back to front and its values upside down, the people most hated are not the bad ones, the evildoers or the degenerates in society but those seeking to do the most good for the most people. No one loves to be hated, despised or derided for their position on moral or spiritual issues but as soon as such a stance is taken the haters seem to materialise from nowhere. It is as if doing good and living a life of sobriety, spirituality and moderation are a magnet for attracting ferocious opposition from all segments of mankind. It is as if wickedness, in all its manifestations, has become so entrenched and natural that any departure there from is regarded as a lethal threat to life itself.
The only kind of Christianity the secular world accepts without hostility is the kind of Christianity that is so watered down, so ineffective and colourless that it is indistinguishable from man-made religion and mores.
Christianity from the outset was meant to be different. It was meant to challenge mankind to turn away from perverted living and embrace wholesomeness, righteousness and truth. It was meant to engender unselfish living, helping one's fellow-man and looking out for the weak and the poor. It was to show mankind a clear path to happiness, joyous living; a living on earth that could transcend his fallen, decrepit nature and reach new heights of spirituality. It was meant to reconnect man to God in a way that bypassed fetid tradition and create a zone of association, namely the church, for God's pleasure and glory.
All of these things run counter to the fallen nature of man, with all its attendant evils, with its passion for waywardness and defiance; and its attachment to the comforts of evil living. "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19) Hence the hatred for those who live otherwise.
And all of this in spite of the enormous good done through Christianity. Many bad things have been done in the name of Christianity like the atrocious crusades, and secular critics tend to elevate those ugly things to ridiculous levels. Nevertheless a trawl through history shows that Christianity overall has stellar achievements.
For it was Christianity that:
Created more schools, especially for the poor, and developed more theories of education than any other organization in history. History shows that Christian hospitals were in fact the world's first voluntary charitable institutions and by 1450 AD were all across Europe and beyond.
It has been the driving force to motivate men of all persuasions to fight poverty, human suffering and slavery wherever they were found.
History shows that it was the first ecumenical council at Nicaea in the year 325 AD that directed bishops to establish hospices in every city that had a cathedral.
It was the means of getting more indigenous languages transcribed to writing than all other forces combined.
It created the most extensive and effective humanitarian organisation in existence; namely the Red Cross.
It changed radically the perception and treatment of women. In all cultures across the globe women were oppressed until Christianity came and gave them a higher status and conferred on them prestige and honour. It was Christianity that protected children and family and opposed things like prostitution, homosexuality, bestiality and polygamy.
It changed the work ethic of the world from slaves and serfs working for a privileged few to everybody doing proper work for his upkeep. Jesus as a carpenter, Paul as a Tentmaker and Peter as a fisherman's dignified work and set in train proper work ethics where laziness and deliberate idleness were seen as sinful. "He that does not work should not eat" says Paul. (2 Thessalonians 3:10)
It was the early Christians who first unionized and had all things common and collected funds to cater for the underprivileged that led to unionism and social welfare safety nets as we know them today.
It could also be argued that democracy, human rights and equality, all arose from Christianity following the Judeo-Christian tradition. In spite of popular understanding to the contrary modern science has been directly linked with the biblical understanding of the world and many great scientific thinkers were products of Christianity.
It produced Jesus, more correctly he created Christianity, and it's beyond argument that he was the most important person ever to walk this earth, and because of him and his teaching (remember the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:1-7:27) the world is a vastly much better place, and even today he and his teaching are still transforming lives that are uplifting the world.
Yet in spite of all these extraordinary achievements, and these are by no means all, the usual secular critics still deride Christianity as a negative force in society and something to be avoided like the plague. They think that by heaping scorn on Christianity, persecuting its members, belittling its achievements and pouring invective and hatred over them at every opportunity that that is going to damage Christianity and debilitate its outreach and mission.
They are in for a rude awakening for nothing they do can shock us because we are amply prepared for their shenanigans and it was Jesus himself that put us on high alert.
Here is Jesus' timely warning to the believers:
"If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." (John 15: 18-19)
Believers in Christ are not like the world, do not live by its standards, partake of its sinful offerings, adopt its attitudes and mores and do not march to its drumbeat. If the world hates us for this, then well and good, for we are in excellent company.
But Jesus also said this:
"Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." (Matthew 5:11-12)
This is significant and mighty encouraging for Jesus tells us here something that we might not have known about ourselves. Jesus says that when all this invective and hatred come our way that we are blessed. Blessed here meaning; receiving God's favour, fortunate, good, happy. Imagine that you are blessed and don't feel it, don't know it and not in the mood for foolishness and along comes something derogatory and nasty and suddenly your eyes are opened and you realise that you are blessed. This is like a man thinking he is dirt poor suddenly realizing that he has in his pocket a winning ticket worth millions. This is awesome.
Believers need to take stock from time to time and evaluate their standing. Sometimes we so want to be at peace that we make some unwise compromises and live to regret them. When the world regards us as lovable, harmless and nice it is not always to our eternal benefit and we need to be on our guard.
They hated Jesus because he shone the light on their wickedness for they preferred to do their wickedness under cover.
They hated John the Baptist because he told the king that it was not right for him to have his brother's wife." (John 6:18)
The hated Stephen because he called them what they were - murderers. (Acts 7:52)
In this dispensation of grace the light of the gospel is shining from millions of believers on the evil deeds of this adulterous generation, and no power on earth can stop it. Every righteous act of the believer, every godly deed, every sincere prayer offered to the Almighty show up this world for what it really is; adrift from God.
The hatred flowing from the world towards believers is evidence of their discomfort, of their enmity with God; of their galling unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life. Happily the time will come when, instead of looking outwards and hating the light, they would look upwards, in earnest and profound gratitude, and grasp the outstretched hand of the loving saviour.
In the meantime, for God's sake we are hated, but that's all right my friend. Really.
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2013