Saturday, March 30, 2024

Do Not Marvel, My Brethren, if the World Hates You

Do Not Marvel, My Brethren, if the World Hates You

by Rev. Joel A. Brondos

Trans Day of Visibility Badge

At the end of March in 2023, President Biden signed a proclamation establishing March 31, 2024 to be the "Transgender Day of Visibility." Last week, the county board of Fairfax County, Virginia voted 9-0 to commend this designation. This weekend, since the festival of the resurrection of our Lord falls on March 31, the matter has gotten additional attention.

I suspect that Christians are being trolled by people who have a deep, albeit irrational, hatred of Christianity. It is the same kind of vitriol as was directed against Jesus Christ Himself.

Such people revel in doing and saying things in order to offend Christians. They hope to annoy, irritate, and aggravate Christians so as to provoke a vitriolic reaction. And if that happens, they will feel justified to ramp up the rhetoric to include injustice and injury.

Two reactions may be naturally expected from Christians: the rational and the visceral -- but neither will be ultimately effective or satisfying.

A rational approach is not often an immediately effective response because rational arguments have minimal impact on those who choose to act irrationally. One does not win arguments against the devil with reason. At one point, the disciples questioned Christ because the could not cast out a demon to which Jesus replied, "This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting," (Matthew 17:21).

A visceral approach, especially if it manifests itself in physical force, is not effective because in the minds of those who hate Christians, it justifies and invites an elevated response in kind. Christianity is neither well-prepared nor well-disposed to engage in a protracted battle based on the projection of force.

The weapons of our warfare are not carnal (2 Corinthians 10:4). Rather, our armor consists in such things as faith, love, truth, righteousness, peace -- all established by the living Word of God.

This is not to say that Christians are necessarily prohibited or restrained from the use of either cerebral or visceral engagement. However, the hope of Christians is not well founded when it is set upon such things.

In his Gospel, the apostle John records the words of Jesus:

"If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:18-19)

John echoes this in his first epistle:

"Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you." (1 John 3:13)

Christians do not fight fire with fire. Our goal is not to defeat enemies of the cross (Satan is already defeated), but to win enemies of the cross to Christ.

As such, we need to consider the lost from various perspectives. For example, do people ever feel the emotion of anger when they stub their toes on the bedpost in the middle of the night? Anger which is the reaction to pain is different than a premeditated anger which arises from malificence -- and each type of anger calls for a differentiated response.

What I mean is this: if people have felt sharp pains because they have been raised in broken families -- if they are hurting because they have not known true care and love from their parents and siblings -- they might express their pain by anger. There are tens of thousands of such people in our world today brought about by the demise of the family.

Anger which was conceived in pain, may, by transference, be conveyed to others through meanness and hatred. So, for example, a husband who has been mistreated and frustrated at work may come home and take it out on his dear wife, even though she has done absolutely nothing to deserve any verbal or physical abuse.

When the world strikes out with hateful and hurtful words and deeds, we ought not have a knee-jerk reaction or spout off clever but unkind remarks. That only causes more hurt and fuels the fire. It is important to listen intently to see if we can discern what really is at the heart of such hatred and respond appropriately with Law and Gospel.

Those who are familiar with C.F.W. Walther's work, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, know that great harm can be done when the Law is proclaimed in a situation where the Gospel should have been predominant -- and vice versa.

For example, if someone is overwhelmed with guilt for doing wrong and is repentant, THAT is NOT the time to recount and rehearse the Law in an attempt to make sure the person is sufficiently sorry for his sin. Rather, the Gospel in all its sweetness should be applied by God's words of forgiveness, mercy, and grace.

Conversely, if someone feels absolutely no remorse for living contrary to God's will and Word, that person should hear not a single sentence of the Gospel, but must be confronted with the Law so that they repent and turn from their sin -- at which time the Gospel may be freely and lovingly applied.

St. Paul's epistles to the Galatians and the Corinthians provide a nice comparison. The Galatians were rather legalistic, imagining that faithfulness was achieved by following the letter of the Law. The Corinthians were rather open-minded, thinking that being indulgent and permissive about sin was the way for Christians to be loving and evangelical. Both were grievously in error.

Ultimately, the endeavors of those who try to live against God's Word will come to naught. For one, it can be rather difficult and exhausting to maintain a lifestyle which strives against the nature created by the Lord. Any number of them may at some point tire of it. For another, Judgment Day is coming. But in the meantime, the devil and the world will scowl as fierce as they will. They, however, can harm us none. They're judged, the deed is done by Christ's victory over sin and death -- His resurrection and ascension!

The prophets of Baal entered a showdown with Elijah (1 Kings 18). They lost. The children of this world have chosen Easter Sunday to attempt a showdown with Christ people, and with Christ Himself. They will be exposed and disappointed -- but we prayerfully hope that they will repent and be saved.

Rather than resort to responses based on human reason or gut reactions, we will learn from the prophets and apostles how to address the ungodly with the Word of God. We pray for our enemies with the intent that they may repent and know the faith, hope, love, peace and joy of being redeemed by crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ.

True, we may learn with Jeremiah to see foreign lands as exiles. We may learn with Paul and Silas how the acoustics of a jail cell can be made to resound with hymns. "Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us,"(Romans 8:37).

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