Read John 15:18–25.
Open your laptop or turn on cable news for a few minutes. It won’t take long for you to see it. The church is under attack from all sides. Whether we’re talking about the underground faithful in mainland China, bold followers of Jesus in the Muslim world, or increasingly marginalized Christians in the West, the world stands against the body of Christ. It seems the more the sons and daughters of God live out the life of Jesus in this world, the more dark spiritual forces rage.
But it’s been this way since Jesus first began calling men and women to follow Him, and it will be this way until the end of history. Jesus said so: “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:19–20). It should be our expectation that as we walk with Jesus, we will be met with opposition and, at times, downright hostility.
You see, no matter what you may have been told, we are engaged in a war for this world. God has enlisted us in the ground offensive. We have our commission and our marching orders; we are in the fight, sent to declare the arrival of the kingdom of heaven. When we do, God works through us to take back territory from the gods of this world and rescue people from the sprawling darkness. The victory belongs to the Lord. It cannot and will not be stopped.
But, of course, the spiritual forces of this age are fighting tooth and nail to maintain their hold on the systems of power and the hearts of the lost. Because our battle is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12), but against these false gods of the unseen realm, our greatest weapon is our trust in God, no matter what comes our way. And what comes our way may be everything from ridicule and discrimination to torture and execution.
I know. This all sounds so extreme. But think about Jesus for a moment. He endured all these things without His reliance on the Father faltering for even a second. Through the hands of wicked men, the gods of this world broke His body and silenced the beat of His heart. Yet God raised that body to new life. He was victorious not by stopping their attacks, but by enduring them. This battle plan is now ours. The strength of God and the truth of His Word are most clearly seen when we stand in faith as evil is thrown our way. That is why Jesus calls us to take up our crosses and follow Him. In the face of persecution and even death, the testimony we offer is a blazing light to a world lost in darkness.
Persecution is the rule, not the exception. So, if your life as a follower of Christ is not being met with resistance on any front, it may be an indication that it’s not really the Savior you’re following, after all. Sadly, there are lots of “good” things dressed up in Jesus’ clothes these days, but Jesus doesn’t lead His followers to do merely “good” things. He calls them to embrace a kingdom-of-heaven perspective that does not easily find rest or comfort in this world.
Here are just a few examples of the disconnect we should feel:
- The world says, “Do whatever will satisfy you.” Jesus says, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35).
- Those who love what is evil ask, “Why be ashamed of the darkness?” Jesus says, “I am the light of the world” (8:12).
- Our culture of so-called tolerance tells us, “All paths lead to God.” Jesus says, “I am the gate for the sheep” (10:7).
- The story we are told to live says, “Be the savior you need.” Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd” (10:11).
- The materialists say, “This life is all there is—so enjoy it!” Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25).
- Philosophers of this age tell us, “Discover your own truth.” Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (14:6).
- Popular self-help books (even some from Christian publishers) say, “Find life in yourself.” Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches” (15:5).
We cannot be in love with the world and in love with the Lord. We must make a choice. Jesus’ own half-brother James wrote, “Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4). If we truly believe Jesus’ words, we will find ourselves out of step with culture. As we bring the presence of God and the life of the kingdom with us wherever we go, there will be resistance.
Expect to be mocked and marginalized, criminalized and rejected. And in certain places and in certain seasons, expect to be brutalized and even killed for the hope that you bear. If they did it to Jesus, they’ll do it to you and me. Stand strong and remember: there is a resurrection coming. In the end, light shatters the darkness, life overpowers death, and nothing can separate us from the love of our Father. Nothing.