(Photo: Dan Delzell)
It is truly a startling reality. I am talking about how incredibly easy and natural it is for human nature to be critical of Christians. It is quite remarkable when you just stop and look at it objectively.
It's not like this is a new thing in the world. We have had 2000 years of history repeating itself over and over again. Jesus said it would happen. He told his disciples, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first." (John 15:18) And boy have we seen this hatred unleashed time and time again all over this planet.
More Christians were martyred in the 20th century than in all previous centuries combined....with about 45 million Christian martyrs in that century alone. On average, a Christian is martyred every five minutes. This is what man's hatred for Jesus has produced.
Jewish people of course have been the recipients of much hatred as well. That's because the God of the Old Testament is also the God of the New Testament. Human nature doesn't discriminate when it comes to criticizing and even killing those who have a history in God's family.
But why is there such intense hatred for Christians and Jews? Why is man's nature so pointed in that direction? And why do some professing Christians find it difficult at times not to give into this urge to "shoot their wounded" so to speak? Man's hate-filled words and actions are often directed at people who bear the name of Christ....and who pledge allegiance to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Here's the deal. Man, by nature, hates being told what to do. Enter God. He commands all of humanity when He says, "Repent." (see Acts 17:30) That doesn't sit well with man. And since it is kind of hard to lash out at God since we don't see Him....many people choose the closest thing they can find....and that is to lash out at those who bear His name.
Interestingly, this lashing out actually points to the fact that Jesus is the real deal....the Messiah....and the Savior of the world. No other god is hated like Jesus....especially since there is only One God....Father, Son, and Holy Spirit....and the others are counterfeits. Deep within man is a hatred for his Creator....until God pours His love into our heart. (see Romans 5:5)
Are you one of those people in the world today who hate Christ? If so, you might even think of yourself as an atheist. How ironic it would be if your hatred for Christ became the one thing which finally convinced you of His existence!
Try taking this test. Which behavior seems to come quite naturally to you....the quick tendency to be critical of anything associated with Jesus, and Christians....or the inner impulse to offer praise to God for saving a sinner like yourself? When you think about Jesus, is your heart filled with joy....or with doubt? If Christ lives within you, your tendency will be to praise Him. If He does not yet live within you through faith, your strong human tendency will be to always find "issues" with the Savior and with Christians. That's just the direction our natural thinking tends to gravitate.
We are all surprisingly quite similar. By nature, we feel like we are invincible. It is only when the Holy Spirit convicts of our sin before God that we begin to come to terms with God's reality....and His world....and His judgment....and His salvation. Until then, we have no idea just how blind we really are to God....and to spiritual things. It is only "the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." (2 Tim. 3:15) Apart from God's wisdom and love in our hearts, we remain angry at God and angry at Christians.
In our human pride, it is so easy to criticize "those Christians." They are an easy target. And it makes us feel better....that is, if we are "in the flesh" rather than "in the Spirit." To be "in the flesh" is another way of saying that our heart and our mind are under the power and the "spell" of sin. This spell causes us to think stuff that simply isn't true....and it makes our hearts hard toward God and His will for us.
When I am bashing Christians, I don't have to think about my own sin against my Creator. After all, "they are the bad guys....while I am a pretty righteous person myself." Do you see the problem with that mindset? That's what the spell does to people....and all of us are susceptible to that kind of attitude, even after Christ comes to live in our heart through faith.
Are you under the spell of sin....or have you come out from under that spell? One way you can know is to examine how you talk about Christ....but also, how you talk about Christians. Your flesh loves to bash Christians....but that is never something the Holy Spirit is doing. That doesn't mean we are never to offer any constructive correction for a fellow Christian. We all need correction at times. It just means that it takes spiritual discernment to follow the leading of the Lord, rather than our natural tendency to be quick to criticize others....especially when they happen to be followers of Jesus Christ.
So....are you "in the Spirit," or "in the flesh?" Are you just doing what comes naturally....or have your progressed to doing what comes supernaturally....through the power of the Holy Spirit....as a result of your faith in Christ?
On this side of heaven, there will always be that urge to criticize Christians. That's just the nature of the beast. And you will probably find yourself asking this question more than once: "How can it be so wrong when it feels so right?"