On a state or secular college campus, the atheistic professor has complete freedom to spout religious views and opinions without protest from the students or interference from the dean. However, let a Christian instructor relate his personal story to inform the students of his worldview so they can better understand where he’s coming from, and he’s harassed and soon out of a job.
At a convocation of students on the average secular campus, freedom of speech and the First Amendment are championed. However, let a student stand and own up to being a follower of Jesus Christ who attempts to live by the Bible, and he/she is hooted down.
Ironic, isn’t it, the hostility those of a secular bent have toward belief in Jesus Christ. And they call themselves open-minded champions of free speech.
It’s more than just a prejudice, however. It’s a full-blown hatred.
That hatred is born of a fear of Jesus.
If in reading the gospels you have wondered how in the world things in that remote day came to the point where reasonably-minded people moved to arrest and crucify the Lord Jesus Christ, He who never lifted a finger against a human on the planet, the Prince of Peace, then take a look around you.
Human nature has not changed in the last 2,000 years.
Look at the way militant gays feel threatened by a Baptist church where the people inside are seeking to live as Jesus did and serve as He taught. Those believers would never hurt a fly, yet they are vilified as the enemy by the protestors outside who hurl profanity and insults in their direction.
They hate the church for the same reason the religious leaders of the first century opposed Jesus: they fear righteousness.
That surprises a lot of Christians.
Something inside us expects the world to welcome our goodness, to rejoice that we have turned from a life of self-destruction and fragmentation to wholeness and health. As followers of Jesus, we are gradually becoming all about love and generosity and forgiveness and serving. What could possibly be wrong with that, and how could anyone feel threatened by it?
The answer is simple: we’re also about Truth.
Truth threatens them.
In the first place, the idea that anyone could claim to know the Truth they find offensive. Truth is relative, they insist, and what is true for you might not be for me.
When you respond that Truth is embodied in a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, and spelled out in print, in the Holy Scriptures, some will go ballistic. The very idea. They immediately start looking for faults to construct their case around. Finding no fault in Jesus — they couldn’t then (see John 18:38) and they can’t now — they start searching the Scriptures. Unable to find anything in the New Testament they can use against believers other than some comment of Paul’s on women, they quickly move into the Old Testament and have a field day. The Lord flooded the world, the Lord commanded the Jews to kill the Ammonites, a prophet cursed some children, the list goes on and on.
Followers of Jesus often get discombobulated at this point. How are we to respond? Or, should we respond at all? And why are they acting toward us as though we are the enemy when we have finally become people of good will and love?
Following Hurricane Katrina, believers in New Orleans were amazed when humanists and atheists attacked as Nazis the generous Christians who came by the thousands to rebuild this hurricane-ravaged city. Many people across the world put their lives on hold and came at their own expense, often staying for many months, just to help our people rebuild their lives. And this was the thanks they received. What would cause someone to attack a kind-hearted helper this way?
We actually know the answer to that question: They are threatened by goodness and frightened by righteousness. To them, “do-gooder” is a by-word, a put-down. They cannot abide goodness.
Don’t ever forget that.
I’m remembering Lois Killough….
Lois was the sweetest, gentlest member of a church I pastored. When a transient family came by our church office seeking assistance, and when the husband and wife indicated they would welcome employment and a chance to get on their feet, my people sprang into action, Lois at the forefront. My secretary Dottee owned a vacant rental house where they could live. Lois and the ladies from the church furnished it, and someone found the man a job. We were glad to be making a genuine difference and not just sending the needy on their way with a tank of gas and a sack of groceries.
One day, while driving down the street Lois spotted the man and his wife going into a tavern carrying their toddler with them, a clear violation of the law protecting minors. She mentioned this to a friend in our church who passed it on to the local child protection authority. Their office checked into this couple’s history and discovered they had other children who had been taken away from them for negligence over recent years. They called a hearing, which some of us attended. Lois was required to get on the witness stand and tell what she had seen. She was kind and gentle, loving and inoffensive.
This man and woman whom Lois had gone to great lengths to help vilified her, called her names, and attacked her character. The court removed the infant from that home and they left town. Nothing about this sordid business gave us the least amount of satisfaction.
Outside the courtroom, Lois was in tears. All she had done was to try to bless that family, and look how it turned out. She who lived for Christ and by the law of love had tried to do the right thing every step of the way. She could not believe the way the couple had attacked her.
“Pastor,” she said, “Why would they say such hateful things about me? That hurt so much!”
I said, “Lois, are you better than Jesus?”
She looked up like I had slapped her.
“What a thing to say, Pastor! You know I’m not.”
“Well,” I said, “He said the servant is no better than the master. They treated Jesus this way, so you may expect the same.”
It’s one of the hardest lessons in life to learn. Jesus was crucified because He insisted on doing the will of God. The early Christians were persecuted because they preached Jesus.
Anyone who begins to follow Jesus Christ as Lord should be told they are now swimming upstream in a downstream world. Expect hostility from any direction. This vile world is no friend to grace.