The election season renders to us an extra level of self and cultural examination. We ask ourselves, “What are the laws and rights I value?” and we weigh our personal interests against the campaigns of the various candidates – ultimately choosing to vote for the one who most aligns with our greatest passions, needs and interests. This particular election is leaving many feeling as though there is no candidate they truly endorse and therefore are left feeling as though they will vote for the lesser of two evils. This simply means no one candidate upholds much of their personal value system, but one offends them more than another does.
We as a people are extremely divided, opinionated and vocal about our personal beliefs. And this is the structure of democracy: that we all have a right to our own opinion and the majority vote will be given the power.
When we look at one another and listen to beliefs and worldviews we have a variety of responses. We get angry, we get hardened, we systematically build up our responses and defenses, we feel compassion, we love, or we can even pity one another. As Christians, we are given much leeway to respond to culture and our circumstances with almost all of these responses – so long as they are all rooted ultimately in love. We can have righteous anger, we must be prepared to give intellectual and informed responses, we are commanded to be compassionate and giving and all of this is driven by a love for God that overflows into a love for people (Eph 4.6, 1 Peter 3.15, John 13.34-35).
Have you ever stopped to consider the world’s response to believers? The most common reality and teaching on the subject is Jesus’ teaching that the world will hate Christians because it hated Jesus:
“You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.”
– Matt 10.22
“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”
– John 15.20
It is a very convicting thought to evaluate our acceptableness to the world. Am I proclaiming the Gospel, am I living in such a way, am I following Jesus’ example such that the world around me hates me?
But let’s look at another interesting teaching:
“For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”
– 1 Cor 15.16-19
Often times people will become angered because of our political positions on issues like abortion and the sanctity of marriage, and our bold proclamation that Jesus is the “only way” to Heaven and eternal rest in Heaven. Anger is typically a response to thoughts and our interest in convincing others to believe as we believe. Pity, however, is a different emotion evoked by a lack of understanding or a feeling of superiority in intellect or circumstance.
So my question is simply this: Why would the world pity believers? Does the world pity you?
I know a couple who has given their life to the service of God in international missions. For their entire adult life they have raised support from Churches across the United States and have scraped by on less than 100% support for years. They are now at the age we in the US would consider “retirement age”. They have no savings to speak of, they have no pension, they do not own a home, to state it bluntly: they are not prepared to retire. They have nothing, and they will have to work until they die, even if they draw Social Security. Christian friends and family members who have supported their ministry for years pity them. The non-believing world thinks that they are nuts.
In 2008 I attended training for missionaries with families who were being sent around the world with take the Gospel to the nations. There were some who were being appointed to South America and Europe – those somewhat normal mission fields where one can actually be granted a missionary VISA and function boldly as a Church planter. There were many, however, who were being sent to the 10/40 window and countries considered closed. Countries where it is illegal to be a missionary, proclaim the Gospel and teach people about Jesus. And while there were some singles and a handful of married couples without children, many had multiple children – and all under the age of 14. Grandparents, friends, and church members were angry: How can you put these innocent children in harm’s way? How can you take little babies to places where there is limited medical care? The outside world can see the appeal of moving somewhere exotic or the Europe, but they think those moving to difficult places are crazy at best and idiotic at worst.
Christians are called to live their lives in such a way that the outside world would pity our life choices. This, of course, does not mean that we should make unwise decisions, but it does mean that our decisions should be based on the leadership of the Holy Spirit and the teachings of Scripture. Jesus taught profoundly that it is incredibly difficult for a wealthy person to be saved, and if we are unwilling to give up everything that we have for His sake we are unworthy of Him. This includes possessions, family and comfort (Matt 10.37-39).
Jesus also commanded us to go and make disciples of all nations – and that not only includes but necessitates the difficult places (Matt 28.18-20).
Jesus commanded us to love our enemies, bless those who persecute us and pray for those who hate us (Matt 5.43-48).
Jesus commanded us to store up treasures for ourselves in Heaven by not storing up treasures on Earth (Matt 6.19-21).
Often times our Christianity is simply moral and ethical purity. We obey the laws, we don’t drink (too much, anyway), we don’t do drugs, we don’t have affairs, we don’t do the big sins. We go to church and we look squeaky clean. Unfortunately, popular research is catching up with our moralism. The secular world is scientifically proving the impact of drugs and alcohol on the body. Research is proving that pornography is not only destroying marriages but having profound psychological impacts on people and psychologists and counselors and speaking out against it. Sexual promiscuity, extreme wealth and the pleasures of the world have been proven not to ultimately satisfy, and thus countless articles have been written on the drug usage and suicide frequency amongst the wealthy and celebrities often speak out about the reality that money cannot buy happiness.
For Christians to be content financially, in a faithful monogamous marriage, and in general ethical living makes sense to the population at large.
Ethical and complacent living is neither what Jesus calls us to, nor what the world would consider pitiable. Jesus calls us to give up our lives radically for His glory and for the salvation of the lost. Just like He did.
Is your life pitiable to the world? Or are you striving for moral excellence? Are you building up treasures on Earth or in Heaven? Are you following the example of the world, or are you following Jesus’ example? If the Gospel were somehow disproven, would your life be proven a waste?