Keep Proclaiming Jesus in the Face of Hostility

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(Photo: Courtesy of Carmen LaBerge)Carmen Fowler LaBerge is president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee and host of "The Reconnect with Carmen LaBerge," radio program.

This is an excerpt from Carmen LaBerge's new book, Speak the Truth: How to Bring God Back into Every Conversation.

The world does not like the message of surrender and the world takes it out on the messengers. We should not be surprised when what God tells us to expect comes to pass. We should get used to being called names, charged with being politically incorrect, or accused of standing on the wrong side of history. Jesus experienced far worse for us. We should come to expect the unbelieving world will be hostile toward those who are aligned with a Lord it does not acknowledge and a God it rejects. We should expect negative things to be hurled in our direction – insults and all manner of hateful speech.

But when people are taking pot shots at us, we recognize the real target of their rage is Jesus. They are really aiming at Him. We must recognize that the flaming arrows of the evil one might be aimed in our direction in this lifetime, but Jesus is the One who takes the blows. I want to encourage you to have hope in that fact and take the insults that come your way with honor for Him.

Yes, Christians get depressed and we grow discouraged, but we do not despair of the realities of living as people of faith in a fallen world. That's our calling. That's the context of the Great Commission. That, dear brothers and sisters, is why we're still here: that the world might see through us to Him.  

It is time we take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us. It's time we became more like Philly-Jesus. Who is Philly Jesus? He is a recovering heroin addict, who now walks the streets of Philadelphia dressed as Jesus might have in the first century. In the most literal way possible, he is seeking to represent Jesus to the people of Philadelphia. We chuckle at him, but he's a provocative character in the conversation about counter-cultural Christianity and living our calling to show forth Christ to others.

I am not advocating you go put on first century garb, but we need the kind of mind-shift that takes off the world and puts on Christ – without that, our Christianity is nothing but a put-on.

When we become Christians, we become representations of Jesus to the world. Until it becomes that personal and real, our hope to influence culture is going to be a fleshly mission carried out through human means. We will be missing the mark and exhausted, frustrated and angry doing it.

I advocate we taste and see again that the Lord is good. That we savor the Savior. Trust me, if you meditate on the goodness of God, if you revel in His Grace, if you fix your eyes on His beauty you will not be able to stop talking about Him. Like a person who has just fallen in love you will sing the praises of the Lover of your soul.

We all know "that person" who can't stop talking about their favorite sports team or their favorite coffee shop. They are evangelists for that which they love. In that sense, we are all evangelists for something. What I'm advocating is that we become anew what we are: people who — like the Samaritan woman at the well or the Gerasene demoniac or the leper in Capernaum — literally cannot keep the good news to ourselves.  

If your mind is protesting, "but what will people think?" hold that thought because you're onto something!  It's a great question.  And I say, "Let's give them something to think about!"

Philippians 4:8 says, "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." So, what will people think about after an encounter with us?  Will they think on these things? If we have done our job in representing Christ then they will be looking at Him and their mindset will begin to change as they allow who He is to penetrate the defenses of their heart and mind.

I cannot explain how it happens, but it happens. If a person will simply fix their eyes on Jesus and look full in His wonderful face they will find that the wind and the waves stop howling, the peace which passes human understanding fills their life. Do all the issues of the world pass away? No, but as Paul said, "I know the secret of being content no matter the circumstances."

Carmen Fowler LaBerge is president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, host of "The Reconnect with Carmen LaBerge," radio program, and author of Speak the Truth: How to Bring God Back Into Every Conversation, to be released September 25th.