By Dale Chamberlain, Crosswalk.com
There’s nothing new about the fact that Christians can be a polarizing group of people. From the very beginning of the Christian movement, followers of Jesus around the world have been persecuted, arrested, threatened, beaten, tortured, and put to death.
In light of all that, some of us might be feeling silly for taking to the internet and complaining when people simply make fun of us.
Nevertheless, while believers in the West might not experience the same level of persecution as historic Christians or fellow believers around the world today, we do feel the sting of not being liked. Maybe it has even cost you a promotion at work. Or maybe it has limited the relationships you have with certain people.
But why does the world hate Christians so much? Our message is one of love. God loved the world so much that he sent his Son to die for us that we might have life. Yet, we still seem to rub people the wrong way.
Sometimes, Christians are disliked through no fault of their own. Other times, we needlessly bring it upon ourselves. It takes wisdom and spiritual maturity to know when we’re being hated for the right reasons.
Here are seven reasons why the world may hate that you’re a Christian, some good and some bad:
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1. Good Reason: Your moral integrity annoys people.
When I was in elementary school, one kid on the playground never said any curse words. He grew up in a Christian home and believed it was deeply wrong to swear.
When some of the other students caught wind of this, they made it their mission in life to get him to say a swear word. They tried everything. They cursed more and more around him. They insulted him—and his mother. They even offered to bribe him with money and snacks if he would just say one curse word. He never did. I wish I had the same level of moral integrity and fortitude as that kid.
He did not waver in what he believed. And for some reason, that annoyed the other kids. Maybe it made them feel guilty when he wouldn’t sink to their level. Maybe they just thought he was being ridiculous. Whatever the case, they were annoyed by the strength of his convictions.
This happens with believers. Strong beliefs and a strong commitment to live by them elicit a strong response. And that response isn’t always positive.
2. Bad Reason: You’re judgmental.
On the other side of this, sometimes Christians are guilty of being judgmental. We tend to think we’re better than other people because we’ve experienced a measure of transformation. We live good Christian lives.
We become arrogant in our convictions, and that makes us look down on other people. People can sense that. And they don’t like it.
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3. Good Reason: Your contentment and confidence make people uneasy.
Christians ought to be some of the most inwardly peaceful people on the planet.
Here’s what Paul says in his letter to the Philippians: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
Once this kind of unshakeable confidence takes root in your heart, it begins to seep out of you. People notice. Some might wonder if you’re for real. They also may wonder if you’re just clueless to the problems of the world.
Certain people may grow frustrated with you, because they just can’t figure out what makes you tick. Your confidence makes them insecure. Your contentment makes them envious and confused. Sometimes people lash out at you because they don’t like what they’re seeing in themselves.
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4. Bad Reason: You’re unrelatable.
I love Christians, but we have a tendency to be weird. We have our own lingo, music, and movies, and that can isolate us from the rest of the world.
The longer we stay in our ‘holy huddles,’ the more bizarre we become to the unbelievers around us. It’s quite common for followers of Jesus to not have many, if any, close relationships with nonbelievers.
To a certain measure, we should be weird. But the things that should be noticeably weird about us are our unshakeable hope, our undying faith, and our selfless love.
For the unbelievers in our neighborhoods, classrooms, and workplaces to come to love us (and, we pray, to love Jesus), they have to know us. We should learn to relate to them on their terms and invite them into our lives.
That’s when we break down barriers and give people an opportunity to see who Jesus really is.
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5. Good Reason: You stand up for the weak and vulnerable.
Any time you stand up for the protection of the weak and vulnerable, you are doing the work of Jesus. In today’s culture, standing for the rights of unborn children may lead to a large portion of the population hating you—including some notable celebrities.
Try as you might to state your position lovingly and logically, certain people will never listen until God changes their hearts. So until that person has an encounter with Jesus, we must learn to respond graciously to the hateful things that are said about us when we stand up for what we know to be true.
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6. Bad Reason: You act hatefully.
Standing up for what is good and true in society is noble. Shouting, insulting, and holding up signs with graphic images of abortions or slurs against the LGBTQ+ community is distasteful. In fact, it’s downright hateful.
We ought to disagree with the unbelieving world where we feel compelled by Scripture and conscience. In some cases, we should disagree very strongly and unequivocally. But the message that should permeate every disagreement is this: “I love you, even though I think you are deeply wrong.”
Without love, we’re no better than those who act hatefully toward us. We can’t say we’re being persecuted for the cause of Christ when we ourselves are standing in hate.
Jesus didn’t come full of hate. He came full of grace and truth. That’s the line we walk.
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7. Good Reason: You love your God too much.
Daniel was an influential government official, and the other officials in the empire couldn’t stand how much God seemed to bless everything he did. So they conspired to bring him down.
Here’s what they came up with: “At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, ‘We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.’” (Daniel 6:4-5)
The only thing they could think to use against Daniel was his devotion to God. In every other aspect of life, he was unassailable. There was no way they could bring him down.
May the same be said of us. We don’t want to cause any unnecessary stumbling blocks to the good news of Jesus. May the only complaint that can legitimately be levied against us be this: that we love our God more than someone else can understand.
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The reason we feel this pressure as Christians is because we are in the midst of a spiritual battle.
Jesus once said that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. We often take comfort in that statement as we imagine ourselves hunkered down, surviving the demonic onslaught. But that isn’t the image Jesus is painting.
When Jesus speaks about the gates of hell not prevailing, the image is not of protection, but of conquest. The church is on a mission not only to survive the darkness of this world, but to cast it out entirely.
The kingdom of darkness will not prevail against the kingdom that Jesus brings. The kingdom of light and life will come and destroy darkness and death. This is our mission.
And we can expect to ruffle a few feathers along the way. But take heart. Our victory is sure, and our God is good. The love of Jesus is far more powerful than hatred ever could be.
Dale Chamberlain (M.Div) and his wife Tamara are authors and speakers who are passionate about loving and serving Jesus together. They love having conversations and creating community around the abundant life that Jesus promised us. You can connect with Dale and Tamara at herandhymn.com.
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