Do you want to be hated, really hated? Then live more like Jesus. No, not the Jesus who has been imagined by popular culture nor the Jesus who has been re-defined by liberal churches. If you want to be hated by your family, friends, co-workers, and the culture-at-large, then start living like the Jesus of the Bible. After all, that Jesus said that His followers (then and now) would be hated:
Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.” (Matthew 24:9-10. ESV)
But, of course, who wants to be hated? I certainly don’t. I’m not sure that I know too many people (although there are a few oddballs out there) who go out of their way to be hated by people who they know, not to mention those who they don’t know. That’s why many Christians today have bought into the lie, “if you would only be more like Jesus, then . . . “ At least that’s the premise of David French’s article, “If Only You Were More Like Jesus,” on National Review Online’s The Corner. Writes French:
Mark Steyn’s and Michael Walsh’s posts below — gleefully and rightfully skewering the New York Times for its religious ignorance — remind me of a rather common liberal, secular critique of Christian conservatives. “If only you were more like Jesus,” they proclaim, “and less concerned with [fill in the hot-button social issue here], then you would reach more people.” I’ve mostly experienced this argument as a weapon wielded against young, idealistic Christians — often on college campuses — who are experiencing rejection and scorn for the first time in their lives.
But here’s the catch: Those delivering the critique are as ignorant of Jesus as the New York Times. To the Biblically illiterate, Christ is simply the ideal man within their own frame of reference; it’s a short-hand way of saying “be more like a better version of me” or “be like the most compassionate person I can imagine” (however they define compassion).(emphasis added)
What an astute observation about being more like Jesus in a culture that does not know who the real (i.e., Biblical) Jesus truly is. So, instead of actually following this Jesus, many who claim to be Christians — especially when faced with peer-pressure, rejection, ridicule, and hatred — will just try to be “more like Jesus.” But, as French points out (with a nod to “The Princess Bride”), “‘be more like Jesus’ does not mean what we think it means.”
Even though Jesus is the most compassionate person who ever lived — He actually demonstrated God’s great compassion and love for sinners by dying on the cross (you can’t get much more compassionate than that) — our modern culture simply cannot fathom a Jesus whose compassion is in any way divergent from how it has come to be defined in a post-Christian, pagan society. That’s why to be “more like Jesus” in our compassion toward others now means not just “love the sinner, hate the sin,” but “love the sinner, accept the sin.” That’s what Jesus would do, right? Well, no!
No where is that false philosophy on display more than in the debate about homosexuality and so-called gay “marriage.” The time is coming — and now is — when those who speak or preach openly against the sin of homosexuality will be scorned, marginalized, rejected, and hated as bigots in an otherwise enlightened society. To proclaim the Gospel and Christ’s compassion for those chained in sexual sin — particularly the sin of homosexuality — will no longer be tolerated in a “tolerant” society.
On this issue, perhaps more so than any other moral issue that will confront Christians within our American culture, we will have to be “more like Jesus.” The only question is, “Which Jesus will we be more like?” Will it be the one who our culture has created as “the ideal man within their own frame of reference,” the cool, compassionate dude who everyone likes? Or will we risk the condemnation of men to be more like the Jesus of the Bible, the Compassionate One who said in His most famous sermon:
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12, ESV)