Are You Hated For Your Beliefs?
Climbing Out of the Prison of Martyrdom
I recently posted on Facebook:
“When Jesus said ‘love your enemies’ I don’t think he meant that we should have enemies, but we should try really hard to love them. I think he meant that we shouldn’t have enemies.”
I honestly can’t ever predict how people are going to respond to what I post. Sometimes I’ll write, like in this case, about something familiar to a lot of people, and then offer a take on it that might be unique, but to me seems to be in line with who I believe Jesus to be.
And then some people go nuts—literally saying that we should have enemies. What? Someone said, “But Jesus had enemies!” Implying, if we’re acting like Jesus, then we’ll have enemies, as well.
Some people like to view Jesus as being divisive. I view Jesus as a unifier.
I believe the love of God, as exemplified by Jesus, is a healing kind of love. It’s a love that says I don’t need to fight these silly battles with other people any longer (and not just the ones on Facebook!). I can use love, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, gentleness, patience as a way of showing other people how loved they are, hopefully setting them free from fighting their own needless battles.
I also know there is a very real thing called “persecution complex” which some people wear as a sort of badge of honor. It’s a kind of martyrdom that says that I’m being treated badly because of my firmly held beliefs. I’ve lived a long time and I can’t say that I’ve ever been persecuted because of my beliefs.
If you feel people hate you because you’re standing on Biblical principles, I wonder if they’re reacting against the way you’re communicating, rather than the message you’re communicating.
Walking around telling people what they’re doing is wrong is going to offend people. Let’s not do that.
Pointing fingers at people who we believe are going to hell is going to offend people. Let’s not do that.
Acting like we know the only right answer to the question of life is arrogance to the first degree. Let’s not do that.
People love to be loved. Let’s do that.
John 7:7 quotes Jesus saying, “The world cannot hate you. But it hates me, because I testify concerning it, that its works are evil.” So then, should we point out evil that we see in the world? Some believe so. I honestly don’t know what evil is. But I do know what brokenness is. I see more brokenness in the world than what might be called evil.
Some believe there is a force of evil roaming around trying to destroy us. If this is true, the Bible also says “Greater is [God] in me than [evil] that is in the world.” Can’t we trust that kind of power that surrounds us and also lives inside us? I sure do.
Can we instead be like Jesus? Can we bring water to the thirsty and food to the hungry? Can we challenge people in authority over us who are taking advantage of us? Can we continually reach out to the outcasts in society, offering a hand of help and hope? Can we help people see that fear and shame are addictions that are easy to get trapped in, but that the way of love offers freedom and peace?
Can we live with so much love in our hearts that we don’t even have to use words to share the gospel?
But here’s some honesty. I’m sure I’ve pushed some people away because of my beliefs. I’m certain that I’ve offended people with my self-righteousness. I know that I’ve lost some friendships because for a long time I was only focused on getting people to believe in the same things I believed. And I was instructed that it was my sole mission to do so.
Have people hated me? I don’t know. Maybe? But I can say for sure that they haven’t hated me because of Jesus. They’ve hated me because I was trying to shove my beliefs down their throat. I wasn’t acting like Jesus, at all.
In conversations I’ve had with people who don’t identify as Christians, I’ve never had anyone tell me that Jesus was offensive. Their complaints are always directed to people who identify as Christians who don’t act like Jesus. Or churches that don’t act like hospitals for the hurting, but rather, money-focused, celebrity-pastored, country clubs.
When people encounter Jesus, they are humbled. Their hope is restored. They pick up their mat and walk again. They realize that they don’t have to live the way they have been living. They’re offered a new perspective. A new way to look at the world, themselves, and even God. A black and white life turns technicolor.
I have craved this kind of life-giving, hope-drenched perspective my whole life. But I haven’t believed it was possible because I was stuck living in the performance-based paradigm of “I’ve got to make God happy with me.”
Many Christians I know have never experienced the unconditional love of God. They might believe it, in theory, but when it comes down to it, they don’t believe it applies to them. Or if they do, that somehow it could be taken away. So they remain in a prison of performance-based religion, and are über-busy keeping track of what we deem to be sin in our own life and in everyone else we see.
To be loved, is to be freed from the shackles of fear and shame. Instead we say “the battle has already been won” but live as though we’re constantly under attack.
To be loved, is to be free to love others with abandon, unafraid that our loving will be some sort of license to continue in the sin we believe them to be living in.
To be loved, means finding ways to serve and help, and not just prop up ourselves with right thinking and correct beliefs.
I know that I’ve been privileged beyond my understanding. And many people have collected a good share of enemies for various reasons. I can’t speak to each of those situations, of course. I’m sorry that people can be hurtful and abusive. We are all broken people.
My goal with all I do is to help people know how deeply they are loved by God. I believe Jesus walked this ground to announce this to everyone, and then asked us to carry on the mission. But instead of people feeling loved by us, they’ve felt something more like control and agenda-driven relationships. A kind of ugly multi-level marketing scheme.
I believe that if we were able to live with love as our only agenda, people wouldn’t hate us or run away from us. They won’t be able to stay away.
QUESTION FOR YOU!
I’m so curious to hear your thoughts on what I write! Are there any topics or questions you’d like to see addressed? I know we are all at various places in our spiritual and human journeys. I’m also wondering if there’s somehow that we can help each other to see God more clearly? I wonder if we can help each other learn how to be more loving like Jesus? To learn how to be closer to people who are different than us? How would you see this happening? I’d love to help facilitate some work like this. I’d rather mobilize us to be forces of love in all the corners of the world, based on how loved we believe ourselves to be. Would you consider being a part? Please leave me a comment here or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you so much!