Monday, August 29, 2011

Why They Hate Us

No one likes being hated. We Christians are no exception to the rule. However, we respond to it in different ways. The “mea culpa” response is a very common one. It looks to ourselves to ask, “What are we doing wrong? What are we doing to provoke others?” This is a good and Christian response. Maturity requires such a response, and when we do a little honest examination, we all find that there is much the matter with our lives.

However, I don’t think that this is the reason why we are hated. After all, there is much the matter with everyone’s lives. However, Christians seem to be singled out for intolerance by the very ones who regard themselves as models of tolerance. One blogger just responded that the thing he hates most about Christians is the way we ruthlessly indoctrinate the youth and exercise influence over the political processes. However, every group does this! This blogger concluded his attack by claiming that the world will be “much better off under atheism.” Clearly, he isn’t reluctant to indoctrinate and to influence politics! Why then his hypocritical stance?

Perhaps instead, we should try to understand the intolerance towards us not in terms of who we are but what we represent. Sociologist Alvin J. Schmidt wrote,

• St. Augustine in the early part of the fifth century said that the Romans despised the Christians they opposed their unrestrained sexual lifestyles (The City of God, 1:30). Tertullian said that the Romans so despised he Christians that they hated the name “Christian” (Apology 3). (How Christianity Changed the World, 94)

Schmidt concludes that the Romans didn’t like it “when sensually lustful behavior is morally questioned and called sinful.” This response isn’t unusual. Minicius Felix cites a Roman pagan who strongly criticized Christians for their anti-gladiatorial stance:

• “You do no go to our shows; you take no part in our processions…you shrink in horror from our sacred [gladiatorial] games.”

When people feel judged, they lash out defensively. We often cling to our honor and sense of self-importance more tenaciously than to our wallets. Christian morality is threatening even when we don’t direct our Biblical judgments to specific individuals. However, it’s not just a matter of assailed honor. My honor is called into question whenever I blog. Most respondents resort to personal attacks. However, this doesn’t send me to the Manhattan Bridge to end it all. This is because I am convinced of the correctness of my cause.

However, recently I was charged with misrepresenting a famous preacher-sociologist in an essay that I had posted on my blog. I was horribly distressed because I realized that it was possible that his allegations were correct. However, I didn’t have a copy of the sermon to check against these allegations until I found it on-line, to my great relief. I then reasserted my charges with some additional ones, without an ounce of discomfort.

Why then can’t those who are living “unrestrained sexual lifestyles” do the same? If they are convinced of the correctness of their conduct, why do they have to respond so defensively and with such intolerance towards the Christian position? I think that this is because they are not convinced. Although they might speak confidently about their lifestyle choices – and all their associates will agree with them – they are still stung by any suggestion that they might be sinning. Why? Because we are all programmed with a moral sense! We know what is right and wrong.

If someone angrily accuses me of walking down the street instead of running, I will remain undaunted, because I know that I haven’t done anything wrong. However, if this same person rightly accuses me of lying, I will probably resent him and defensively attempt to justify myself. This is because I know that I have done wrong, and consequently feel guilty and vulnerable.

Do those who commit sexual sin know that they have done wrong? According to the Bible, they know that they have:

• The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)

We are going to be hated. Jesus certainly was! Why? Jesus stated that the world hated Him, “because I testify that what it does is evil,” (John 7:7). We too are a reminder to the world of its evil and coming condemnation (Romans 1:32). Consequently, we are a stench to those who are perishing (2 Cor. 2:14-17). At least we are a pleasant fragrance in the nostrils of our Lord.

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