“You hate me,” the words were ugly, stuck in the middle of a messy sentence, but their meaning was clear...and they were directed at me.
I felt gut-punched. Of all the things I had ever been charged with, “hating” someone had never made the list.
What had I done to deserve such an accusation?
Earlier that day in high school, I had been informed that another student was upset with me due to some classroom comments I had made concerning the Deity of Christ. A teacher felt it was worthwhile to arrange a lunch meeting between the two of us to iron things out.
I had been expecting a philosophical discussion, perhaps an opportunity to explain my faith on a deeper level. I was actually excited about it!
Instead, the normally bright and cheery girl seated before me wanted to know why I despised her.
I was perplexed.
She explained that her religious system accepted multiple truths, and therefore believed in an infinite number of routes to eternal happiness. No one path was better than the other. In claiming that Jesus was, “The Way,” I had elevated my “path” above hers and must therefore “hate” her.
The worst part was, she was entirely sincere.
I am ashamed to admit that my knee-jerk reaction was not rooted in compassion, but in an internal firestorm of rage and indignance.
Angry, dark words boiled up within me.
Did she realize how many logical fallacies she had just managed to pack into a single sentence? Had she ever actually taken the time to examine the obviously flawed nature of such a belief system?
On top of her fatal lack of judgment, did she not notice that I had just risked social standing to offer her the path to life, the truth that she was loved beyond belief?
Yet, she has the gall to drag me down here and accuse me of hate!?!?
(Yeah, let’s just say my heart was a lot less than Christ-like.)
I had breathed deeply, attempted to soften my tone, and launched into an explanation of the ludicrous nature of relativism when something beautiful and unexpected happened–I was hit by a tidal wave of unearthly sorrow.
Not a pity for myself, but a crushing, God-born, yearning for this eternal soul to understand all that she was missing.
Silent tears leaked down my cheeks.
This wasn’t something to throw fists over, this was the time to throw down my fancy words, and throw my arms around this object of God’s affection.
This was devastating. Tragic.
A desperately loved, highly sought after, creation of the Father, was staring down Real Love in the face and didn’t recognize Him.
I stopped my explaining and croaked through the knot in my throat. “I didn’t tell you about Jesus because I hate you, I told you because I love you.”
I honestly don’t remember much of what I said during the rest of the conversation, and I don’t think she really cared. My attempts to communicate my affection meant more to her than any of my attempts to communicate my logical reasoning.
I didn’t back down. I didn’t tell her that I was ok with her position. In fact, I told her that I couldn’t stop talking about Jesus because that’s what real love does. Her understanding of my intentions, however, had changed everything.
After our lunchtime cry fest, something else incredible began to happen–we became friends.
After we became friends, something EVEN MORE incredible began to happen–she actually started to listen to what I had to say about Jesus. She was even excited to read a Christian apologetics book that I lent to her.
After she graduated, we even exchanged letters (the real, hand-written kind) for a time.
Though I am embarrassed to admit that I have lost track of her through the years, the lessons learned from our friendship have given me some invaluable wisdom and perspective on how Christians should respond to the current “tolerance” movement.
1) If you are a Christian, understand that you WILL be called a hater.
On a rapidly increasing national scale, expressions of Christian moral absolutes are being targeted as acts of “hate.” The recent Supreme Court decision, in its purest form, gives citizens the legal right to discriminate against those who refuse to compromise on Biblical integrity. Telling someone that Jesus loves them no longer conjures feelings of peace and goodwill, but of dislike and sometimes outright malice.
People are going to get angry.
They are going to call you names like ignorant, bigot, and neanderthal.
Here’s what we CANNOT DO in response…we CANNOT get angry, and we CANNOT stop loving. To do either of these things would disprove our point and discredit the love of God.
A hostile response to an accusation of hostility serves only to prove the accuser’s point.
A peaceful response to an accusation of hostility, however, points to a strength pulled from beyond this world.
One of the greatest opportunities we have to demonstrate the love of God is in our response to persecution.
There is no greater way to bring attention to God’s glory than to respond with love in the face of hate.
DO NOT MISS the chance to put the undiluted love of God which, “turns the other cheek,” prays for its persecutors, and “is not willing that ANY should perish,” on display. (1)
Watch yourself. Whose character are you representing in your response to hostility?…Yours…or the Son who begged His Father to forgive those who were in the process of murdering Him.
2) Accept that things are not always going to “end well” from an earthly perspective.
Christians being labeled “haters” is nothing new. Beginning with Christ, believers have been labeled as lunatics, menaces to society, and worthy of death. They were tortured, burned, and eaten alive. Christ Himself, the Embodiment of life, joy, and peace, was falsely accused of public insurrection and brutally executed.
Not all stories are going to end like mine. Some of our businesses are going to get taken away. Some of our good names are going to be smeared. Some of our church buildings might be shut down. Some of our leaders might even be facing jail time.
When these things happen, and they will, REMEMBER–just because we “lose” in an outward, circumstantial sense, doesn’t mean God hasn’t won.
God ALWAYS wins.
“Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and His anointed…The One enthroned in Heaven laughs; the LORD scoffs at them.” Psalms 2:1-2,4
The enemy’s most well-laid plans and attempts to dethrone God NEVER WORK, because He deflects and redirects every attack to bring glory to Himself.
God used the savage death of His Son, what must have appeared to be the ultimate defeat, to bring about the salvation of the universe.
There is NOTHING beyond the grasp of His redemption.
As I mentioned earlier, God’s glory often shines the brightest when His children are most under fire. Somehow, He takes the unpleasant reality of His people’s suffering and transforms it into a public, unhindered display of His Son.
When people see us faithfully enduring through suffering..they see Jesus.
And thats the whole point.
3)The only way to lose this thing is to give up.
The church does not win this battle by caving to the enemy’s demands, white-washing the Gospel, or softening the Word of God.
To do so would be to compromise our very soul.
We win by refusing to give an inch.
We win by, “Looking to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our Faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father.
Consider Him who endured such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or faint-hearted.” Hebrews 12:1-3
When people hate us, love them anyway.
When people try to silence us, speak anyway.
When our careers are on the line because we refuse to compromise, speak the truth anyway.
And when our promotion gets denied, and our friends have all scattered, and we are wondering where our next paycheck is going to come from, pray anyway, hope anyway.
Jesus could have appeased the courts and avoided His execution if He simply chosen to remain silent on the night of His arrest. Instead, He raised His eyes and His voice and declared with stalwart determination, “I AM.”(2)
Jesus refused to deny the Father or Himself, no matter the consequences.
We are going to have the same choice presented to us. Silence or speech. Comfort or discomfort.
Choose Jesus. He is always worth it.
“Rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed…and let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season, we will reap if WE DO NOT GIVE UP.” 1 Peter 4:13 NIV, Galatians 6:9 ESV
4) Remember why you’re doing what you’re doing.
In the heat of the moment, when your blood is boiling over with the injustice of it all, with the audacity of your nation’s sin, and you just want to punch somebody or something,…it’s easy to forget that Jesus died for people.
He didn’t die so that we could be proven superior, or win an argument. He died so that lost souls, destined for eternal death, might be snatched from the fire and find their life in Him.
You were one of those lost souls once. Remember that. He didn’t let your sin stand in the way of rescuing you. He had every right to give up on you, but He didn’t.
Take a moment to check your motives. When the social media shouting matches begin, and your fingers are itching to join in the frenzy, is your end game to be proven right, or that because of your actions, lost people would come to Jesus?
Do God a favor and RESIST the urge to downsize your Facebook friend list based on rainbow colors—Don’t “de-friend” them, instead “BEFRIEND” them.
Want to do something pro-active about this current crisis? Yes, burn with righteous anger that the name of your God is being drug through the streets. But for the people, for the souls behind the tumult, WEEP. Get on your knees and beg God to open their eyes and bring them home.
Find an enemy to throw your arms around, and if they reject your love, love them anyway.
“Brothers and sisters, do not be surprised when the people of the world hate you. We know that we have left death and have come into life because we love each other. Whoever does not love is still dead.” 1 John 3:13-14