Friday, November 12, 2010

Why Do They Hate Christians


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This morning I will be sharing from Matthew Chapter 10:21-25.

On Sept. 19, Islamic extremists broke into the Philadelphia Pentecostal Church in Sharif Town, Karachi City, Pakistan, and set fire to Bibles, hymnals, a musical instrument and a table, according to The Voice of the Martyrs contacts.

The church, which is led by Pastors George Rakha and Peter Shahzad, was established six years ago and is actively involved in Muslim evangelism. "At 4 a.m., some fanatics broke the lock of the church door and entered the church," VOM contacts reported. "They burned three crosses, nine Bibles, five books of worship songs, a table and a musical instrument Tabla [local drum]."
Source: Voice of the Martyrs

Why do people hate Christians?

You will be hated by everyone because of My name. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered.
Mt 10:22

Then they will hand you over for persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of My name.
Mt 24:9

Then many will take offense, betray one another and hate one another.
Mt 24:10

And you will be hated by everyone because of My name. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered.
Mk 13:13

You are blessed when people hate you, when they exclude you, insult you, and slander your name as evil because of the Son of Man.
Lk 6:22

You will be hated by everyone because of My name,
Lk 21:17

The world cannot hate you, but it does hate Me because I testify about it--that its deeds are evil.
Jn 7:7

If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you.
Jn 15:18

If you were of the world, the world would love ?you as? its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you.
Jn 15:19

If I had not done the works among them that no one else has done, they would not have sin. Now they have seen and hated both Me and My Father.
Jn 15:24

I have given them Your word. The world hated them because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world.
Jn 17:14

Do not be surprised, brothers, if the world hates you.
1Jn 3:13

Why then are we surprised, shocked, or otherwise aghast when we discover that the world hates Christians. One reason is that we have lived insulated lives. We have not felt the heartache of losing a loved one for the faith. We have not felt the sting of a whip against our back. We have not known true poverty because no one will give us work or buy our goods due to our faith. I don't think we would know what to do if we felt the full weight of the hatred the world has for us. We have been lulled into a slumber in our faith. Wake up! Church wake up. If we knew these things. If we woke up to the attempted terror against the faith then we would not be surprised to find out that the world hates us. This hatred takes three main forms: Division, persecution, and slander.

Division is the first form of hatred that a Christian can endure. This division is created the moment that we give our lives to the Lord. As we become more and more like Christ and as we deepen our walk with Him then this division grows. For some it is a gulf. For some it leads to persecution, but the division is there. At times we as Christians act as if the division does not exist. At other times we try to "build bridges" to overcome the division. We use things like "Blessed are the peace makers" as the the banner of reconciliation. Do not get me wrong. We are to reach out and minister to the hurting. We are to heal the sick, bind up the wounded, give drink to the thirsty. The divisions will come. They cannot be avoided. They cannot be undone. If you have any inclination to pretend that there is not a division let me just share this with you. You are choosing to dwell in a spiritual no man's land. For those of you who do not know what a no man's land is: it is the space that exists between two warring troops in a battle field. The reason it is called no man's land is that it is either not occupied or it is so dangerous that no man would dare venture into it. And yet to live as if no division exists between Christians and unbelievers is foolish. You will get caught in the crossfire. I will talk in a moment about our reaction to this division, but let us not be so foolish as to say it does not exist or that we can wish it away like some silly notion. It is a fact of our walk with God that there will be division.

The second item is persecution. This persecution comes in many forms. The essential quality of persecution is that you are being chased. That is to say someone is actively seeking your harm. We must not be caught up in the so called persecution complex. That is to say we are being persecuted merely because something does not go our way. This may be the result of the natural division that exists between the believing and unbelieving world. But, to be persecuted is to be pursued, chased, and harassed by those that would harm you. This harm can be legal, physical, financial, familial, social, and political. There is growing concern that we will see persecution in the United States. In some respects we have seen the early stages of persecution to come into our lives. Around the world though persecution of Christians is in full force. Every three minutes somewhere in the world a Christian has paid the ultimate sacrifice for their faith by giving their life in martyrdom. That means that from the beginning of this service until I finish my sermon it is likely that 20 Christians will have been martyred. Listen dear friends. We are so caught up in our trivial and minor discomforts in our lives. 20 Christians will have given their lives up for Christ. Think about that. 14,000 plus people die a month to name the name of Christ. Hundreds everyday giving their last breath and committing their souls to God in heaven. I do not say this to offend, horrify, or harass you. I say this because we are a-s-l-e-e-p ASLEEP! Wake up, persecution is here in our time. Our thoughts of persecution for ourselves are phantoms of the real thing. Why are we so relaxed in this day an age when nearly 500 of our brothers and sisters in Christ die in the hands of a world that hates them. Yet the Word of God says do not be surprised when this happens. The world hates Christians! The Hatred is growing. Over the last two thousand years over 70 million Christians have been martyred. A staggering figure. Yet nearly 46 million of those died in the last 100 years. That is 65% of the total number of Martyrs occurring in the last century.

A member of an underground Christian movement in Somalia has been murdered by Muslim militants in a continuing campaign to eliminate converts from Islam. Area sources said al Shabaab militants entered the house of Osman Abdullah Fataho in Afgoye, 30 kilometres from Mogadishu, at 10:30 the night of July 21 and shot him dead in front of his wife and children. Fataho was a long-time Christian deeply involved in the activities of the small, secret Christian community, sources said. Area Christians said they suspected someone had informed the militants of Fataho's faith. The assailants abducted his wife and four children, later releasing her on the condition that she surrenders the little ones to be trained as soldiers. "We know they have taken the children to brain-wash them, to change their way of life from Christian to Muslim and to teach them the Koran," said one source. Abducted were Ali Daud (5), Fatuma Safia (7), Sharif Ahmed (10) and Nur Said (15).

A Christian leader who attended Fataho's funeral on July 22 said that one of the slain man's relatives noted that the militants had targeted him because he had left Islam. The incident has spread fear among the faithful in the lawless country, much of which lies in the grip of ruthless insurgents' intent on rooting out any person professing Christianity. Leaders of the Christian underground movement have been forced to flee their homes to avoid being killed by the insurgents, said one leader who, along with seven others, has temporarily moved to an undisclosed area. (Source: Compass Direct)

Do not be surprised when the world hates us for Christ has told us ahead of time that this would happen.

The third way that Christianity is hated is slander. I would say that this is the most common form of hatred that Christians in the United States experience. There is no shortage of people to verbally attack the faith and the faithful. We are portrayed as foolish backward people with morals and values of a long past dying religion. Countless attempts are made to make Christianity look foolish. We are also not doing Christ any favors in our actions. Our misdeeds become ammunition in this word assault on Christians.

Do not be surprised when they speak evil of us. In fact do not be surprised when they make up lies about us. We are hated. They will hate us.

Pentecostal pastor Ilmurad Nurliev faces criminal charges of "large-scale swindling," according to Forum 18 News.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and possible confiscation of property. Pastor Nurliev was arrested at his home in southeastern Turkmenistan on Aug. 27. Three women who previously attended Nurliev's church wrote statements stating the pastor took money from them. Nurliev's wife and other church members vigorously deny these charges, saying police pressured the three to write the statements and that they now regret doing so. Another church member was threatened that if she does not testify against Pastor Nurliev, her husband, who is not a church member, will be fired from his job.

We may not face the harsh reality that we could lose our job for our faith, but it is certain that there are those that want to marginalize, put down, and silence the Gospel message. That is the reality of following Christ. Do not enter into Christian faith expecting to win a popularity contest. Especially if you plan to uphold the Bible and it's teachings. The world hates God, the world hates Christ, The world will hate us.

In the face of such great hate what is it that we as Christians are to do?

Generally we are called to love others consider:

You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you, don't resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to the one who asks you, and don't turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. "You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..."
Matthew 5:38-44 (HCSB)

Loving others will lead us to take three actions: endure, spread the Gospel, and conform to Christ.

You will be hated by everyone because of My name. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered.
Matthew 10:22 (HCSB)

So often I must admit my endurance is lacking in the Christian walk. In fact it often seems that my endurance is for those things that are pursuit of my own happiness and my own pleasure. I know that I am not alone in this. Endurance requires us to set our hearts in the right place. It takes a full commitment to finish strong. Too often we start out with the best of intentions, but quickly fall into bad habits and poor choices. Endurance on the other hand requires that we set these all aside and run the race set before us.

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God's throne.
Hebrews 12:1-2 (HCSB)

We see in this passage several points that will lead us into endurance. First recognize that we are not alone in this race. We have people here on earth and those that are in heaven, and most importantly we have the Holy Spirit in us as a witness. Trust in these. Rely on these. Set your mind on these. Loneliness is a sure way to sap your endurance. Second lay aside the things that are getting the way of enduring. This means that any evil sinful and selfish way that gets in the way must be set aside. What is more it could mean that some very good things need to be set aside if these things get in the ay of enduring. Third we have to keep our eyes upon our Lord Jesus Christ. Remember he was disposed and shamed, but endured the cross on our behalf. Your eyes are a window to your soul. Setting your eyes on Christ brings light to your life.

To endure is not enough. We are not called to live separate lives from unbelievers. Don't get me wrong we are to separate ourselves from the world's sinful ways. But we are to be in the world that we might spread the Gospel. Jesus pointed out in this passage that hatred from unbelievers actually moved the Gospel along. When we come across those that do not hear us and actively chase us with persecution it is time to move on. You see God prepares the heart, God gives the message, God gives the faith, God convicts the heart. The only part a sinner has is to repent and believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. We are but messengers. The Commander in Chief our Lord has said if they will not received the message they have not rejected us, but rather they have rejected Him. This means that we are to continue on to the next town. All to often we are surprised when we are rejected and so we give up sharing the message. Do not lose heart. Call upon God with a pure heart and seek where God would have you go next. We are to share this message with all who will hear it.

After endurance and spreading the Gospel comes the hardest of all the tasks that we are to accomplish in the face of the world's hatred. We are to conform to the image of Christ. We already talked about loving others. In this way we become like Christ. When we recognize the needs of others and then minister to that need we conform to the image of Christ. When we preach the Kingdom of Heaven in the face of great opposition we conform to the image of Christ. When we walking in purity of heart and sincerity of motive and gentleness of spirit we conform to the image of Christ. In short if the world hates us because we have done something wrong then we have received a just reward. On the other hand if the world hates us because we conform to the image of Christ then we have something to celebrate.

In the end there will come a judgment. Jerusalem was judged for not recognizing Christ in the Day of her visitation. This destruction occurred some 40 years after the death and resurrection of Our Lord. Leading up to that day the Gospel was going forth throughout Israel. In fact the persecuted Church spread the gospel throughout Asia Minor. Even today it continues. It seems that the surest way for the world to encourage the spread of the Gospel is to persecute Christians. This will continued until the end of the age and will culminate in the Gospel being preached to every nation every tribe. To God be the Glory! Amen.

So what should we say in conclusion. Well first we need to recognize that a world that hates Christianity is to be expected. More often than not Christianity divides families and friends, is persecuted, and is slandered. As we consider this let us not lose sight of those brothers and sisters in Christ around the world that are on the front-lines of this persecution. Let us keep them near our thoughts so as to lift them up in prayer and in our support. When we respond to those that hate us we must always remember Christ's command to love our enemies. Really love is the path forward for endurance, spreading the Gospel, and conforming to the image of Christ. Let us pray.

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