Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 10:22a “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake:. . .”
Jesus here continues His predictions of persecution against His followers. He wanted to remove from our minds imaginations of a velvet pathway or a bed of roses. We should disregard any visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads.
Some believers dodge abuse or persecution by having a Christian lifestyle so watered down that it goes unnoticed by society. But believers who live a godly life and verbally identify with Jesus will experience kickbacks from time to time.
Jesus doesn’t want us to be morbid, just realistic. Don’t expect to be treated like Santa Claus. Recent scandals about clergy and child abuse have not helped.
In the USA, the three main complaints prechristians bring against Christians are: hypocritical, boring, judgmental. Some of this scorn we bring on ourselves, but much is due to our bearing Jesus’ name. Christ is history’s ultimate divider.
Responses to Him during His life on earth vacillated between two extremes: love and hatred. Both reactions continue to spread over the earth. Love for Jesus has proved to be a blessing, leaving good as its legacy. Hatred against Jesus has been like a fever, a pestilence spreading affliction, leaving devastation in its wake.
We who identify with Jesus will take shrapnel whenever animosity explodes against Him. We are not hated by all unbelievers all the time, but Jesus did warn us to expect abuse from other religions, governments, and family (vv. 17,18,21).
In our current text, Christ is expanding the circle of possible antagonists against us. We could at any given moment be ambushed from any strata of society or from a whole society at large. Stay alert. Be careful. Don’t be surprised by sudden abuse from folks of any rank or file, of any stripe in any nation in any age.
Nero, needing a scapegoat for his fire that ravaged Rome, blamed Christians. The official charge Nero leveled against us was, “haters of the human race.” He deliberately tried to convince Romans to hate Christians. Many have followed his example. Haters of Christ and Christianity have never been in short supply.
The fact this dislike of believers is worldwide and never ending proves it is no coincidence. Opposition to Christianity is an orchestrated phenomenon. A sinister power, lurking behind the scenes, hidden in spiritual realms, makes it happen.
For people sent to love others, hate is a fate hard to bear. Nevertheless, we are expected to stay faithful. Pain, abuse, and ridicule never exonerate cowardice.
What right does Jesus have to require this of us? First, as God, He has every right to command whatever He wills to whomever He wills. Second, having made us and died for us, He owns us by right of creation and redemption. Third, others will be won to Jesus as they see our loving Him enough to suffer for Him.
Willingness to suffer for Jesus is of utmost importance. Lest we be tempted to think otherwise, Jesus will now forge ahead to make, in this context of suffering, one of His boldest statements ever with regard to what He expects from us.
Matt. 10:22b “. . .but he that endureth. . .”
Do we suffer? Yes. Does this give us the right to quit? Never. To the persecuted church at Ephesus, Jesus said, “Be faithful until death” (RV 2:10 NAS).
Perseverance, never giving up, no quitting–this should be the chief concern of every believer. The thought should weigh on our minds by day and by night.
Raising this issue brings us face to face with one of the most common and serious errors confronting USA Christianity. Ours is the first generation of believers to give itself in mass to Satan’s lie that this life should, and can, be wonderful.
In previous times, and in cultures elsewhere, Christians accept the stark reality that this is the tough life, the hard life. The easy, good life is the next one.
Erroneous thinking here is no minor matter. What we expect can foreshadow, and often predetermine, the extent of what we are willing to endure for Jesus.
If we put all our desire for happiness totally in this life only, we will be disappointed, and disillusionment is fertile soil for failure, for giving up, for quitting.
Successful Christian living requires keeping our minds, as much as possible, fixed on the end of this life, and the total bliss that will come after it. Then, not now, comes our unalloyed happiness. There, not here, is the good, serene life.
Many Christians falter because they want Heaven on Earth. How many divorces are caused by a restlessness, a boredom as it were, that is normal to our current existence, but deemed adequate cause for seeking greener pasture elsewhere?
How many believers stop attending worship services, or quit their jobs at church, pursuing in leisure and recreation the happiness only Heaven will bring? When Christians get Heaven and Earth mixed up in their thinking, sin happens.
Set the record straight. In this lifetime, it is much more important for believers to be holy than happy. Christians contemplating sin occasionally whine, “Doesn’t God want me happy?” Not as much as He wants us holy. There will be plenty of time in Heaven for happy. Right now the clarion call is for holiness.
It is time for a renewed cry of holiness among God’s people. Hear again the Lord’s admonition to Isaiah (58:1), “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins.” The bloodletting must stop. USA Christians must begin living holier lives or we shall continue to be laughingstocks in our land and embarrassments to Jesus.
When Saul and Jonathan fell physically, Philistines, confirmed enemies of God, celebrated. When believers fall spiritually, the Lord’s detractors still revel. Each time God’s banner falls in the mud, armies of the enemy shout a victory cry.
More and more I am saying to myself, “John, make it to the end. Don’t stumble now, and fumble 35 years of ministry.” How would I ever be able to face my wife? What would I say to my children? What would be told to my grandchildren? All their lives, they would meet people who knew me, and hear them say, “I knew your grandpa when. . .” and then there would be an uncomfortable pause. How would people finish the sentence, I knew him when he was true, a preacher, before he fell and became a humiliation, when he was different than he is now?
What do we Pastors, ministers, staff members, deacons, Sunday School workers and other leaders need most from our congregations? Prayer. Pray for us.
Build around us a hedge of protection, a wall of fire. If we err in judgment, if we make unwise decisions, people may be a bit upset. But if we fall into open sin, the consequence is like a grenade exploding, with carnage pillaging all nearby.
My dear people, your demise might not generate as widespread a devastation as a church leader’s, but it would be just as mutilating within your own limited sphere. When a believer falters, the pillars of the house tremble, every stone in the structure feels the shock (Spurgeon). A secret fault erupting into a public earthquake is like a huge tree crashing to the ground. Birds and squirrels lose a home, a safe haven, and are left to fend on their own for shelter. Deer, elk, and moose lose shade and are left to scorch in a blazing sun. Shock waves reverberate.
Don’t confuse Heaven with Earth. Do not listen to our old sin nature as it cries out through, and on behalf of, our flesh, “I’ve had enough of this self-denial. I’m tired of saying no to myself. I need a vacation from holiness.” “I’m young. I want to experiment, to enjoy life.” “I’m old. I’ve missed out on a lot of fun. There’s not much time left. I’d better try one last fling to grab all the gusto I can.”
Dear believer, halt these thoughts dead in their tracks. This is Earth, not Heaven. In this life we will have tribulations, problems, heartaches, disappointments, and setbacks. Sin will only make it worse. Don’t compound your troubles.
Once we put our feet on the straight and narrow path, let’s not let them slip. USA Christianity needs adherents who will make it to the end faithful and strong.
Nothing hurts a church or the cause of Christ more than the fall of its members. It takes multitudes to bring honor to Jesus to compensate for every one who dishonors Him. A hundred faithful believers are hard pressed to undo the damage of one failure. May we fall into the grave before we fall into disgrace. “It would be infinitely better to bury you in the earth than see you buried in sin” (Spurgeon).