I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world (Jn 17:14-16).
This statement is usually translated something like: we are in the world but not of the world–we are living on earth and at the same time living in the Kingdom of God for Jesus said the Kingdom of God lies within you (Lk 17:21).
Therefore we feel the pull or force from both places; the world we live in tantalizes our senses with the sights and sounds of mortality while God pursues us with eternal life. The world we live in can be seen, touched, heard, and felt with physical senses whereas the heavenly can only be discerned by the Holy Spirit that lives with us. It is oft time said that the world screams while God whispers! What will a person do?
Christianity is under siege from all fronts. The world is no longer playing nice and is displaying is hostility toward traditional Christianity and the church. Christians who hold traditional beliefs about the family, marriage, sexuality, and so forth are being labeled as intolerant, old fashioned, hateful, obstructionists, obsolete and so on. The pressure is on the Church to conform its teachings and beliefs to societal norms and laws. Some of this pressure is being applied from within as some Christian leaders have jumped on the bandwagon of enlightened Christianity and urge the church to get with the times. What will a person do?
I believe the corporate church body (all believers regardless of denomination or affiliation) is looking for sound leadership and direction. We must resist responding to the world with a knee-jerk reaction. The church is called to lead not follow and we should look into the scriptures for comfort and advice. The good news is God has the final say and is not swayed by opinion polls, court rulings, political ideology or agendas.
Since the beginning of time God’s people have been persecuted: By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh (Heb 11:4). Both brothers sought God’s approval and blessing; yet when they approached God one presented himself in a manner he knew would please God (faith) and the other dishonored God and presented an offering his way! Even in rejection Cain was told that he too would be accepted if he approached God correctly. What was Cain’s response? He killed his brother! He was angry at God and he vented his fury, rage and resentment upon his brother. He was incorrigible and was not going to submit to God. What has changed?
The world is at war with God (and always has been). When they crucified him they thought they were rid of him and they could continue on in their nefarious ways. But three days later their world was forever turned upside down when he arose victorious over death. The world has never admitted defeat and it continues to persecute the people of God as if God does not exist!
Jesus had a lot to say about persecution: Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake (Mt 5:11): But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you (Mt 5:44); Remember the word that I said to you, Servants are not greater than their master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also (John 15:20)!
We are Christ’s visible witness on earth: You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot (Mt 5:13)! Salt is not only used for flavoring but is also a preservative! We are witnessing what happens to the world when it rejects the salt of God.
The persecution of Christians is not going to go away but will intensify. The final paradox is found within the words spoken to his disciples shortly before his crucifixion: I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world (John 16:33)!