"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit - fruit that will last - and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me." John 15:16-22
One of the questions I am asked quite often is one like this: "Don't you ever get tired of fighting for the gospel in a world full of hatred?" I understand the question that many people are asking; however, I'm not sure I want to answer it the way they want me to answer. The definition of the word "fight" is "tending or meant to stir up a fight or hostility towards someone or something." If I could, I would like to rephrase that question that is asked so many times: "Don't you ever get tired of LOVING for the sake of the gospel in a world full of hatred?" The answer to that question, then, is quite simply, "No, I do not get tired of LOVING for the sake of the gospel in a world full of hatred." As a Christ follower, I realize fully that Jesus has called me unto Himself. He has "chosen" me "out of the world." And as a Christ follower, I realize fully that the world will hate me because I no longer identify with the world, but with Christ. The world hated Christ first, and so the world will hate me as well. With this hatred, persecution will come. Persecution will come from individuals, from groups, from media, from those who know me, and even from those who don't know me. Is it easy? No, it is not easy. Many times when hatred and persecution comes my way, my first instinct is to fight back, not love. However, that is my old nature, my sinful nature. My new nature that comes with Christ is to love those who hate, love those who persecute me. Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-45, "You have heard that is was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."
You may ask me, "How do I keep LOVING for the sake of the gospel in a world full of hatred?" I love with the love of Christ. I must be in intimate relationship with Him, and I must obey His commands fully to truly be able to love like Him. Jesus said in Luke 9:23, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." That means I must daily surrender my wants, my wishes, my feelings, and my sinful self to Christ and put on His wants, His wishes, His feelings, and His righteousness. Only when I am walking with Christ in complete surrender will I truly be able to LOVE for the sake of the gospel in a world full of hatred. There will be individuals who don't agree with the message of the cross that I share. Some will disagree politely, while other will disagree vehemently. My response to either should not be to fight (stir up hostility), but rather to love and to pray for them. I recently read David Platt's new book, Counter Culture, and the two words I kept seeing and hearing over and over again were "courage" and "compassion." I must be a person of courage and compassion. I can't just be courageous without compassion. However, I can't just be compassionate without courage. I don't want to be a person who compromises with the world, and I don't believe that is what Christ wants for me. I want to be a person of godly conviction with Christlike compassion. I want to share the truth of God's Word with the world and allow the truth to set them free, just as I have been set free. I want the good news of the gospel that led me to repentance, restoration, and redemption to do the same for those who oppose God...just as I once opposed God. Sometimes I think we forget as Christ followers, that we, too, were once alienated from God because of our sins. Many times that is why Christ followers are labeled as "hypocrites" or "narrow-minded" or "moral bigots" or "intolerant." As Christ followers, we need to remember that we can't change anything or anyone. The Holy Spirit of God is the One who brings the change. We are simply called to share the message of truth, the gospel of Jesus Christ, in love...with courage and compassion...and let the Holy Spirit of God do the work of life change.
For those of you out there who may not agree with the message of truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ that I fully embrace and preach, I don't hate you. Actually, I love you and pray for you. When I disagree with a worldly choice or a worldly lifestyle, I am not judging or condemning you. I am courageously and compassionately sharing the truth of God's Word that there is a different way to choose and a different way to live that leads to full and eternal life. I am simply echoing the call of Jesus found in John 14:6, where Jesus says, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." I am simply echoing John 3:16, where God's Word says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." In 1 Timothy 6:12, Paul charges young Timothy to "fight the good fight of the faith." And in 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul tells young Timothy, "I have fought the good fight." There is a "good fight" that can take place in our world, and it is not one where we stir up hatred toward one another. The "good fight" is one where love is the common denominator. The "good fight" is one where love, the love of Christ, overwhelms us all. The "good fight" is one where we can live at peace with one another and where the ultimate goal of our faith can be lived out loud and unashamedly. The ultimate goal of our faith is found in 1 John 2:3-11. We must walk as Jesus walked. Believe it! Claim it! Live it!