Sometimes I really wonder – especially when people complain about how hard their elders preach – if people really think being a Christian is all fun, games, and love? Sure, love is a part of it, but not the conditional love you may be used to receiving or giving. You know, the “I’ll love you forever, but only if you met my arbitrary conditions.” The high rate of divorce in this country (and elsewhere) just shows how imperfect that love is (and we won’t even discuss the sky-rocketing domestic violence numbers in Massachusetts with homosexual partnerships). The love Christ and God speaks of can only flow from Him, an unconditional love that wants all to turn away from that which He has decreed as a crime (or, in common parlance, sin) against Him and His creation. Lust isn’t love. Sex isn’t love. Hate isn’t love. Pride isn’t love. Greed isn’t love. Slothfulness isn’t love.
And you think your preacher telling you the truth is hard? Try being that preacher. That man of God who stands unwaveringly for God and His Word alone. Try being unpopular. Hated. Despised. Ridiculed. Ignored. Think you have a tough job? Try telling the truth sometime before a group of people you know and love. Try it again from the street corner.
People who tell the truth in this world have the uncanny ability to be labelled as whack-jobs, nutters, hate-mongers, and every vile name imaginable. Why? Because they not only stand for something, they stand for the one thing which shines a light on the very things people today want to engage in. Every vile sin, every time you’ve hated someone, every time you’ve lusted after someone, every time you’ve lied (little white lies count here, too) to someone. Having such a spot-light shone on one’s self isn’t pleasant. It isn’t easy. As a matter of fact it’s entirely unbearable, yet people continue to reject the one who took upon Himself the punishment for all of those sins, thinking that if they can just get deeper in the shadows they’ll be okay.
Do you really think it’s easy proclaiming truth when you’re hated for it? Persecuted for it? Killed for it? Do you think Bible-preaching, God-fearing men and women enjoy being tortured for the truth? It certainly doesn’t win us popularity contests, doesn’t help us get work to support our families, doesn’t win us any friends (and believe me, we do cherish those we have, so much so we continue to preach the truth).
Why do we do it? Consider this:
When you see your neighbour doing something, say building a fire pit, and you know it’s too close to the house to be safe, do you just go across the street and tell him that all he has to do is love his home-builder and all will be fine? Do you not realize that just because he loves his home-builder doesn’t mean that when he lights a fire in that fire pit not only will he lose his home, and possessions, and possibly family in the process? I imagine though you are, however, the sort of neighbour who will tell his neighbour he needs to stop what he is doing and reconsider his actions, that if he continues down that path he will lose everything. As men and women of God, proclaimers of the Truth – not the Joel Osteen or T. D. Jakes or Rick Warren (boy, I have a lot of names I could name here) watered down false gospel – but the actual truth of the Bible. You cannot live in sin and still call yourself Christian. Period. How do I know? Scripture says so.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
Do you think Jesus Himself enjoyed the persecution? The ridicule? The torture? The false condemnation? The agony of the painful death he endured? No, but He preached the Truth anyway. Even if He could reach one soul, that he or she might be saved for God’s glory, it was worth it. Every stone they wanted to throw, every vile word and accusation against Him, the temptations of Satan himself, the agony, the pain, the humiliation. Every last bit of it was worth it if only one person was reached. If God could only reach and save one person from burning down their own house.
Next time you think some preacher or man or woman of God is being too hard, or too judgemental, look at Scripture. You’ve already been judged and condemned by your own words and actions. If someone says to you, “Look out! You’re heading on a path to destruction! Stop! For the love of God, please stop,” don’t look at them and hate them for pointing it out. As disciples of Christ we are tasked with proclaiming truth, and yes we need to be doing it with a supernatural, unconditional love that only God can provide. Those who think they are doing Christ’s work but spew nothing but vitriolic hate will have no part in Heaven. God has already said that, too.
I promise you one thing and one thing only: If I am up in front of my church, or sitting behind my computer screen, or driving down the road, I am doing my best to show the love of Christ. That means though that often what I have to say will be hard to hear, and even harder to understand. I do it because I love God so much that I cannot do anything else. I cannot sit by while people burn their homes down. I just love you all too much to sit by and do nothing.