“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” Jesus’ words in John 15:18.
At no time since Jesus walked this earth have those words been truer and more obvious than they are today. Christ Followers are hated… but to say that about our lives here in the US is ridiculous. We enjoy freedoms in this amazing country that people in other parts of the world cannot even imagine. The worst we face for claiming Jesus publicly is being ridiculed by non-believers, or lawsuits being filed to remove Christian symbols from public property, or not being allowed to have organized prayer time in our schools. And the pundits go crazy claiming persecution and unfair bias against us… all the while, Christians in places like Iraq, North Korea, India and Afghanistan are losing their homes and families or even tortured and killed for their beliefs. In fact, there are 40 nations in the world today where you can lose everything – life included – because of your faith in Jesus.
With all of the privileges we have as Americans it is so easy to lose sight of all that we have to be thankful for…
– Our children don’t go to bed at night worried that their home will be burned down around them… simply because they pray to Jesus.
– Our spouses don’t watch us leave for work every morning wondering if they will ever see us again… simply for being known as a Christian.
– Our friends and families don’t have to worry about being seen talking to us, worrying that they will be killed … simply for associating with known followers of Christ.
Can we really understand what Jesus was saying? Can His words in John 15 really, truly, resonate with us as Americans?
For the vast majority of us, we have never known, nor will we ever know, the true hate that exists in the world. We will be limited to the soundbites and video segments we see on the nightly news – and those will be edited and sanitized for our sensitive eyes and ears.
None of that is to try and make anyone feel guilty about the amazing freedoms we have here… but instead… to simply serve as a reminder to be focused, to be aware, to keep our perspective, to be thankful for what we have, to be generous, to physically help with the needs of others … and to out-love the hate… BUT most importantly for us, as Followers of Jesus, we have to remember to pray and to trust in the name, and the power and the authority of our Father. Pray for our troops that are sent into harms way on our behalf… pray for the innocents who are being pursued and slaughtered over their beliefs… pray for our leaders, even the ones you might disagree with politically, to make the right decisions and do the right things… pray that evil is defeated, destroyed, decimated wherever it exists.
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Jason Rehmel is the Lead Pastor at Eastside Christian Church on the east side of Cincinnati. If you are someone who has had a terrible experience(s) at a church or churches – stop by some weekend and give it one more shot with Eastside. Whether you have felt judged, or dismissed, or unwanted – wherever it has been – Eastside is different.