Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The World Hated Me First

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. But you are not of the world, since I chose you out of the world, and so the world hates you. (John 15:18–19)

Last month  I wrote a post on the conflict of postmodern thought with natural law. As I have thought more about the subject in light of current events (Alt-Right vs. Antifa, tearing down monuments, college students demanding the cancellation of invited speakers or the removal of faculty, etc.) While the outbreaks do not appear to be the voice of a national majority, the groups are finding a local or regional voice, specific to their situations. While these outbreaks are localized, they are united in mindset—take every measure to promote, establish, and maintain the groups beliefs. Rejecting any modicum of civility, they manifest them themselves in competing factions of pagan tribalism. Intent on promoting their respective goals, the groups create syncretistic bonds long enough to win the engagement and continue tribal pursuits, often times turning on former allies.

While the politicians and media attempt to dissect the rancor from a worldly perspective, we who follow the Bible understand the issue: they have wholeheartedly rejected our God and His Christ. Mind you, the outrage against our Lord is not some mild indifference, rather the rancor is manifest in wholesale attacks on Christians by making inroads in legislation, then using the judicial system to force the outliers into conformity. It is here that we might ask the same questions put forth by Arnobius of Sicca (ad c. 255–330) in his work Against the Pagans (II.1–2):
If you think it no dishonor to answer when asked a question, explain to us and say what is the cause, what the reason, that you pursue Christ with so bitter hostility? or what offenses you remember which He did, that at the mention of His name you are roused to bursts of mad and savage fury?
In other words, what did Jesus ever do to you to cause such a response? Arnobius offered some possible objections:
  • Did He ever, in claiming for Himself power as king, fill the whole world with bands of the fiercest soldiers?
  • Did He destroy nations at peace, putting an end to some, and compelling others to submit to His yoke and serve Him?
  • Did He ever, excited by grasping avarice, claim as His own by right all that wealth to have abundance of which men strive eagerly?
  • Did He ever, transported with lustful passions, break down by force the barriers of purity, or stealthily lie in wait for other men’s wives?
  • Did He ever, puffed up with haughty arrogance, inflict at random injuries and insults, without any distinction of persons?
What was the great wickedness that Christ had foisted on the world? He extended “the light of life to all” and showed to them “things concerning salvation, that He prepared for you a path to heaven, and the immortality for which you long.” The horror of it all, that Christ should freely offer Himself as the way to the Father. But the issue was the exclusivity of His claim.

The Roman empire had built within it a polytheistic worship system that the citizenry felt needed to be maintained. In like manner, postmodernism asserts that any norm is acceptable if the society, culture, or tribe in which one identifies accepts that norm as its own for a common good. With a multiplicity of worship practices, the empire needed to ensure the diversity of gods and worship practices. In similar fashion, the U.S. is being required to maintain the same level of diversity to accommodate the new tribalism. The exclusivity of the cross is offensive to those wishing to honor the gods sexual perversion, abortion, racism, etc.

Arnobius went on to ask if Christ should be denounced because He was the rightful One to whom homage was given:
Is He then denounced as the destroyer of religion and promoter of impiety, who brought true religion into the world, who opened the gates of piety to men blind and verily living in impiety, and pointed out to whom they should bow themselves? Or is there any truer religion—one more serviceable, powerful, and right—than to have learned to know the supreme God, to know how to pray to God Supreme, who alone is the source and fountain of all good, the creator, founder, and framer of all that endures, by whom all things on earth and all in heaven are quickened, and filled with the stir of life, and without whom there would assuredly be nothing to bear any name, and have any substance?
The short answer was: of course not. Who else would be worthy since He made known the way to the one, true God? And yet there is the problem. The world does not know, nor wants to know, the One who laid down His life that they might live, because it means they were wrong. What seemed to be the normal course of things was actually the way of death and destruction, but through the Lord Jesus, there is life.

The world will continue to hate Christ and His church because we are a constant reminder that there is One who convicts of sin, righteous, and judgment; and there is coming a day when all will be judged, both good and bad. Let us hold fast in the face of a culture desiring to quell the message of the cross.

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