Why are Christians unpopular? You might think that any group that aspire to love all people and hate no one, who seek to serve the suffering, to live with integrity and humility would be popular but you would be wrong. Tim Farron has described himself as a Christian and is leader of the Liberal Democrat party. He has stated that he believes the present law on abortion to be about right, that he believes in the right to gay marriage and that businesses providing a service should not be able to discriminate on the grounds of sexuality. Those would appear to be liberal credentials, but when earlier this year he became leader, he was asked repeatedly on news outlets whether he personally thought abortion and homosexual sex was a sin. It was evidence that in the UK at least, the debate has moved on. The question used to be whether people had the right to choose to have an abortion or marry a person of the same sex. Now it is whether or not we approve of those choices and if you do not, you must be a bigot apparently.
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” Jesus knew times of great popularity but it is also true that public opinion turned against him. It’s hard to see how people could turn against Jesus but they did. Perhaps it was his refusal to play games and court popularity. His miracles and teaching drew huge crowds but they failed to move on to real faith in Christ. To hate Jesus means to hate the Father as well; of course it does; “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (14:9). There are atheists who claim to love Jesus but deny the existence of God and people of other faiths who claim to love God but deny the claims of Jesus. This kind is thinking is directly opposed to the teaching of the Bible.
If you are having a hard time for being a Christian you cannot say that Jesus didn’t warn you first. They hated Jesus, they planned and plotted against him and eventually arranged for him to be crucified. If you follow Jesus, people will hate you too.
How should Christians respond in the face of such opposition? Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be there with us. He is sent to us and will remind us of Jesus (15:26). The disciples were instructed not to go into hiding but to witness for Jesus. The challenge for us is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in an increasingly hostile environment. The Holy Spirit is still at work and we can see in other parts of the world that the Church often grows in persecution.
‘Go forth and tell! O Church of God, awake!
God’s saving news to all the nations take:
Proclaim Christ Jesus, Saviour, Lord and King,
That all the world His worthy praise may sing.
Go forth and tell! God’s love embraces all;
He will in grace respond to all who call:
How shall they call if they have never heard
The gracious invitation of His word?’ (M Seddon)