Whenever we’re talking to someone who starts elaborating on how they are the object of everyone’s hatred; saying that everyone they know is out to get him – we usually sum that person up as paranoid. I suppose Jesus’ disciples listening to some of the things he forecast for himself might have been tempted to think their teacher was lapsing into paranoia, but certainly not after the authorities came to arrest him and put him on a cross. The fact is, Jesus warned us a lot about being hated by people and it could sound a little unhinged if it weren’t how truthfully it’s played out through history up until this very day.
We’re going to be reading John 15:18-16:15 this Sunday and Jesus will make just that sort of warning.
The book of Acts plays out Jesus’ prediction here – and the first 300 years of the church’s history is one of cyclical persecution. To this day you can track how Christians are persecuted and hated all over the world through organizations like Voice of the Martyrs or World Watch List so I think its safe to say that Jesus wasn’t being paranoid in his predictions.
In all fairness, we have to acknowledge the many times in history that the church has been guilty of promoting it’s own brand of persecution against people of other religions or those they have deemed sinners. There is no excuse for it and it is a blight on our history, all we can do is mourn such folly. The Gospel is the final victim of that sort of stupidity.
Nevertheless, the church’s mistakes don’t diminish the reality of Christian persecution – and it was sort of promised to us by Jesus.
In this passage, in light of the world’s system rejecting the gospel, ch 15:26-27 tells us God’s response and what our intended response is supposed to be. Is it back out of the world? Is it give up and leave them to themselves? What is the response of God and his church to rejection and hatred?
Chapter 16 outlines how the Holy Spirit will interact with this world and with us. Do you get the picture of human ingenuity in how the gospel will spread or something else? What picture do you see? Who does Jesus say will lead us into all truth? How would you understand your role, or the church’s role in this activity of God’s Spirit?
I hope this will be a challenging, albeit sobering study this Sunday! Hope to see you there!
One thought on “The World and the Work of the Spirit”
I’ve heard it said several times over the years that what the church in America could use is a good healthy dose of persecution. This would, it is assumed, separate the wheat from the chaff in the church, resulting in only those truly committed to Jesus being willing to persevere. I don’t know if that would really be the result. Maybe so. I do know that a missionary in China told me that the Christians there are thankful for persecution for that reason. There’s not many lukewarm believers when attending church or professing faith could land you in jail (or worse).
On another note, I think we can (and do) create our own persecution that has more to do with cultural and social insensitivities than the fact that we’re trying to follow Jesus. Example: When I was in high school I was pretty enthusiastic about my faith. I wore a “born again” t-shirt, Jesus fish belt buckle and carried a big Bible with me to all my classes. I created some persecution for myself for being a social misfit which I THOUGHT was persecution for Jesus. The irony is that I was so proud of myself for enduring this persecution I created!