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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Being Hated

Matthew 10:22 "You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved."

Knowing that you are actively hated can be a frightening thought - especially if those who hate you can also hurt you. Hate can also be incredibly painful when it comes from family members or those who have been close to you. However, followers of Jesus should not be surprised by hate, nor should they fear it.

In Matthew 10:16-22, Jesus warns his twelve closest disciples of the cost of following him: "Behold, I am sending you out like sheep in the midst of wolves; be wary and wise as serpents, and be innocent (harmless, guileless, and without falsity) as doves. Be on guard against men [whose way or nature is to act in opposition to God]; for they will deliver you up to councils and flog you in their synagogues, And you will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a witness to bear testimony before them and to the Gentiles (the nations).

But when they deliver you up, do not be anxious about how or what you are to speak; for what you are to say will be given you in that very hour and moment, For it is not you who are speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child; and children will take a stand against their parents and will have them put to death.

And you will be hated by all for My name's sake, but he who perseveres and endures to the end will be saved from spiritual disease and death in the world to come]."

Notice that Jesus said not to be anxious. And, why could he say this? Because the world does not have the power to hurt his believers. Our earthly physical bodies will be shed when we die anyway - to be replaced by with new ones. Our duration after death is eternal, our duration on earth is very short.

While Jesus warned his twelve disciples - and therefore, all of his followers (even to this day) - he also promised a life of fullness and abundance. In John 10:10, Jesus says, "The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)."

Believers live in this strange position of being hated and persecuted but also having a life full of abundance. 1 Peter 5:8 says "...your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." But verse 9 continues, "Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world."

Christian persecution certainly exists in America - often in the form of "Christians" who disagree with other Christians' faith and practice. How tragic this is considering that this country was founded to guarantee freedom of religion. Persecution is not, however, surprising. Jesus guaranteed that his followers would experience persecution. And, Jesus' promises never fail even when governments' promises do.

The one thing that Jesus' followers can not do is to hate back or to nurture hate for their oppressors. If they did so, then the thief/the devil/the roaring lion would win. Jesus said that hating someone in your heart is the same as murder. Hatred and fear are sin. Sin separates us from the goodness and abundance of God.

Therefore, "Fear not! If God be for us, who can be against us?" Or as young David put it, "Who is this uncircumsized Philistine!" Jesus said, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

Believers will be hated, but don't need to hate back because they experience such great love from their merciful, just, loving and patient God. Endure!

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