Monday, December 12, 2011

do people hate me?

There are many things that Christians are doing in this postmodern era that are exemplary. The renewed call to global, faith-fueled activism spurred by the overwhelming number of texts in scripture regarding God’s heart for the poor and marginalized is hopefully changing the stereotypical negative views of the Church. It was the Roman Emperor Julian who violently hated Christians and irritatingly wrote in a letter that, “These impious Galileans not only feed their own poor, but ours also; welcoming them into their (love-feasts), they attract them, as children are attracted, with cakes. Whilst the pagan priests neglect the poor, the hated Galileans devote themselves to works of charity…”

But I’ve noticed something that slightly troubles me, though. In a culture that places a premium value on tolerance and acceptance (a just reaction to hate-crime violence and shrill web voices), it’s natural to assume that we, as Christians, want to be loved, experienced and viewed as tolerant and accepting people, especially as The Church, the fountainhead of grace. After all, if that’s how the culture defines love, we need to speak in a language they understand. That’s what good missionaries do. And who wants to be experienced as intolerant and unaccepting? Certainly not followers of the Friend of sinners.

Besides, weren’t the people that argued the most with Jesus the religious types? Those were the ones who put God in a box, right? Those were the ones Jesus said travelled over land and sea to find one convert and make him more of a child of hell than themselves. Can you imagine Pharisee hashtags if Twitter existed then?—#killthecultleader.

But before we look down our noses at “religious people” and “church folks” (an easy target since it’s always the people other than us and our little circle of enlightened bloggers and friends), it might be circumspect to consider passages where the “culture” or the “world” is clearly viewed as no friend of the Church...

When an adulterous woman is misogynistically dragged before Jesus (where was the loverboy?), Jesus expressed compassion and zero-condemnation. But He added a postscript: “From now on don’t sin.”

It was Jesus who reminded His followers, “When the world hates you, remember it hated me before it hated you. The world would love you if you belonged to it, but you don’t. I chose you to come out of the world, and so it hates you.” (John 15:18–19)

To the self-professed sinner—Peter—who was part of Jesus’ inner circle, Jesus snapped, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me.”

It was Gentile Roman military men who mocked Jesus’ kingship and drove the nails and divided up His clothes at the cross.

It was the businessmen and profiteers who wanted to kill Paul in Ephesus. They did it under the guise of pagan religion, but the bottom line was their bottom line (Acts 19:23, 27).

After a new age-type psychic lost her ability to tell fortunes because of an on-the-spot exorcism by Paul, her infuriated Gentile business managers have Paul and Silas arrested, beaten mercilessly and thrown in jail. Follow the money.

Before the brother of Jesus is martyred, he penned this reminder: Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4)

It was an exiled John who reminded Jesus freaks: Don’t be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. (1 John 3:13)

Paul was beheaded at the hands of Gentiles. Previously he wrote: Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. (Romans 12:2a Message Version)

In Athens, Greece—ground zero of Western philosophy—it was the Gentile intellectuals and poets who sneered at Paul’s discourse on the resurrection.

It’s the nations of the world who despise God in the apocalypse: “The nations were angry with you, but now the time of your wrath has come.” (Revelation 11:18a)

...In other words, it’s not just the “religious/legalists/fundamentalists” that we may be at odds with.

Here’s the problem: I’m finding myself becoming uncomfortable with how little I’m disliked by people outside of the faith. Okay, I realize I may have some deep interpersonal issues to work out here. And I’m not into creating self-righteous confrontational situations by which I can claim persecution…like your average run-of-the-mill American cult. It’s way too easy to slip into a messianic/persecution complex. Been there, got the t-shirt. Seriously.

But I’m wondering: is my life a fragrance that demands a reaction from different people à la 2 Corinthians 2?—or am I just a nice guy who people generally don’t mind being with? There was a reason that Paul said he was not ashamed of the gospel; it implied that it was something to be scoffed at, to be derided as intellectually silly, as a weakness rather than a position of philosophical strength.

There is a reason why Paul wrote the following words at the risk of appearing super-spiritual or attempting to justify himself: I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the stormy seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be Christians but are not. I have lived with weariness and pain and sleepless nights. Often I have been hungry and thirsty and have gone without food. Often I have shivered with cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. (2 Corinthians 11:26b–27 NLT)

Am I so cozy with my life or the culture and so careful to not come off as one of “those kind-of-Christians” that I’m safe as milk? Why am I not disliked by some? I expect to not be liked by some believers for being, well, whatever. Grace feels threatening to some. But where is my interaction with people outside of the Church that causes them to scoff, derisively laugh, or actively oppose the message of the Cross and resurrection? I made fun of people who believed in God before I became a Christian. Where are those who are making fun of me? I’m afraid I’m too insulated and safe in the current zeitgeist of tolerance and acceptance.

The power of the gospel is the Cross…where mercy and judgment meet in space and time. But there is no sense of mercy without a realization of judgment. And somehow, mysteriously, the Cross shouts a more-than-subliminal message of both.

Why don’t people hate me? At least some? It's got me thinking.


  1. Don't you think it's more difficult for modern-day church pastors because you're almost always around Christians? It's one of the only jobs in which every co-worker shares your faith. I assume a high percentage of church attendees are Christian (or at least non-Christians seeking out a Christian message).

    One of the most hated Christians on the planet right now is Tim Tebow. But that's because everyone knows him. I doubt his message is more "offensive" than someone like Bill Hybels, but who the heck knows who Bill Hybels is other than Christians (and Chicago tanning bed owners)?

    Maybe that's your point: There are two reasons for a lack of "hate." (1) A watered-down message, which is probably my problem (because I want non-Christians to think I'm cool) or (2) lack of platform, which probably happens to lots of church workers.

    Of course, the Westboro Baptist folks are pretty hated too, and I'm not sure that's going to work out very well for them with the Big Guy.

    Merry Christmas, Dave!

  2. I'm suspicious you are more hated than you realize, Dave. No, wait, that came out wrong.

    I think the reflection you see may be the "smile and let's get out of here" reaction that has taken over the "in your face, I want my money back for the time I've spent here" mask that was our recent post-modernism. Could the world be so aggressive that people are recoiling from the conflict? You have to pause after watching the tv and seeing parents microwaving their children and gangs creatively luring people into their violence. (an aside here- it is that same reaction that may be helping people find the edge of How long can I stay this path by myself?)

    I wouldn't make the metric of your, oh let's say, controversial statements, oh heck maybe Christian worldview the level of aggression of others. Perhaps they are more water-downed than you? A good check for the message is to check (oh here I go- I'm a seminary student now-) your message via the Word.(See I go to a conservative seminary at that.) I do believe (and it hasn't been beaten in or out of me at this point in my education) that God does provide enough radical ideas that we have yet to implement in one book.
    So good news and bad news: you're probably hated and you just don't know it!!

  3. In my own experience, people will usually smile and shake your hand while thinking something else.

    I remember this past Alpha, one of the speakers mentioned about people wearing masks. We all wear some sort of mask(s). We smile when we would rather not. We laugh when all we want to do is cry. We put on a show for others. Part of that show is doing a smile routine and saying some fluff to someone you don't agree with or don't like. That is a dangerous place to be in. It's fake, it's a Pharisee. Oh God, I'm so thankful that I'm not like this person beside me, I tithe the 10%, I fast every week. I'm awesome.

    If you don't feel the sting of the world, post some things to Reddit in the Christian section. People tend to take their masks off on the internet, besides...who needs a mask on the internet? No one sees your face.

    Just my two cents. Keep up the good work.

  4. I think that we (The Vineyard) used to be hated by the right people. I don't think we are hated anymore because most of our OUTreach takes place inside the four walls of the church. (Not that I don't like Prom or Breathe or the Healing Center- I love them all and see their purpose!!!) It seems like we only leave the building during SOS and on Christmas eve now, though!

    We have SMALL things done with great love etched on the building, but we keep doing bigger and bigger things and in those giant events slinging fewer seeds, reaching fewer kinds of people.

    That old shirt that says "The Church has left the building" does not describe us anymore. Except for the Good Sam team and the LA La Vina team. They rock. But not everyone is good at those very relational outreaches. Some of us were good at cleaning bathrooms and running around in traffic. Some of us miss sharing and hearing those stories of the times when God could just show up and do anything! I miss that.

    Bring back OUTreach and then we will start getting hated more. I was brought to VCC and brought to Christ through a tiny trivial object handed to me by some guy who chased me down to say "God loves you" to me. If I was a nonbeliever now, in our era of no OUTreach, I would be going to hell.

    Sorry if this sounds mean or rude, I am not trying to be rude... and I could be wrong. I haven't been to church in ages so maybe I have missed it.

    Oh and I know that the corporate line is that small groups are supposed to do outreach on their own and some of them do... but it isn't the same. We used to be all about outreach. Now I (personally) am not sure what we are about.

    At least the band is still awesome.

  5. God bless you for asking such a question of yourself. We would all do well to do likewise. My words are written in sincere love…

    Seeker-sensitive churches have made it fashionable to criticize and belittle the church. (“We’re not your parent’s church; come drink coffee, dress casually, listen to hip music and be entertained by the sermon because we’re a COOL church.”) Perhaps the world doesn’t hate you because you are inadvertently doing its job of criticizing the church?

    Steve Sjogren noted that many mega-church attendees are there because they prefer to attend a more-hip church. Didn’t Bill Hybels realize a couple years ago that his seeker-sensitive church did a reasonable job of attracting attendees and adherents, but a poor job of making disciples? David Platt wrote in his book, "Radical", that it isn’t that hard to grow a church in our country. All one needs is a comfortable auditorium, a hot band and a captivating speaker and the crowds will come.

    The pendulum is swinging the other direction; the era of the seeker-friendly church has passed. Start making more disciples (instead of attendees) in 2012 and you might find yourself more hated.

  6. I agree with all of you on some level, except for a few comments left by 'nobody' : )
    I can only speak to some of the "bigger" events, as I've been involved in a large chunk of them at some point. Legistically and financially, it makes sense to have 70+ kids with special needs inside the building that can accomidate them. Same with 1,500 adults with special needs for a Prom. And while the events themselves may be on the larger scale, the ripples effects are far-reaching, waaaay beyond the "four walls" of vcc. I'd say 80-90% of the families that took advantage of the Breathe Respites did not attend VCC. They were friends of friends, members of other churches, parents who had been told by their therapists and doctors... Because of events like Prom and Breathe, there is now "the Circle", a place where adults with disabilities can come and learn about Jesus in an environment that's comfortable for them. Because The Prom, I found my "calling" per say, and now I work with the attendees of The Prom. Because of SOS, a bunch of kids and adults learned to listen and recognize God's voice better. And because of the movies VCC's been involved in, I've personally seen cast and crew members search after a God and life they did not know existed. So while there are some big events, sometimes they have even bigger results.
    And honestly, sometimes city's don't let you pass out water anymore. (I think Forest Park doesn't). Some stuff has just evolved over the years, and as people, we've got to conform to that. Find other outreaches. And honestly, if that's what you're passionate about, just go do it. What's holding you back? : )
    as a side note, I think it's important that I state that I've had major issues with "large events" in the past. I didn't see the purpose, thought they were stupid and a ginormous waste of dough. Sometimes I still do, but I've also been able to see the effects of some of the others. So sometimes I go back and forth...
    Dave - um, restraining order???

  7. In other words, "small things" is dead.

    But I should note that I did say that I love those events and see the purpose in them. I serve at all of them.

    But again... If I was the same nonbeliever that I was in high school, I would end up in hell because nobody is going out to tell people like me thy God loves them.

    ... And it's hard to do outreach alone when you're not insanely extroverted.

  8. Oops... I meant to say "THAT God loves me."

  9. I have attended VCC .... Oops.... Vineyard Cincinnati for 11 years..... While I was not able to attend many of the out reaches that "nobody" refers to - I remember them well - the stories of God showing up were awesome! I have never helped with the big events - except SOS - I think we could use a balance of both. While we reach tons of special needs adults and their families - they are not the only people needing a touch from the people of God!!!!! Going back to some of our outreach past would be a good thing! Just my opinion!

  10. This may be a bit long for some, but it adds a LOT of substance to this discussion. The transcript of a speech given by the president of Asbury Theological Seminary:

    Dave, what are your thoughts on this?

  11. I recall the people that hated Jesus were the religious and NOT the atheists/agnostics/prostitutes/thieves. It was the religious who crucified Jesus, not the non-believers and I believe Vineyards all over ARE hated by the religious. You can read about them in various Christian magazines, so rest assured, you are hated ;-)

    BUT I want to address something more important b/c honestly, I could care of less who hates or loves me. We have an audience of ONE and it's taken me a long time to get to this place, but I'm now pretty comfortable just knowing that He's leading me as I follow. It's His kindness that leads them to repentance.

    My desire is for prophetic evangelism to lead the Church in out witnessing endeavors. It's my desire to be sitting at the table of a restaurant with another friend who walks in the prophetic (as we're all prophetic, but too many of us choose not to walk in it as in putting it into action) and ask the Lord what He thinks about the server or what the server's giftings/talents are...lately, I've found that this is the way God wants me to "do" outreach. It's the little things that matter and most often, a kind word spoken to say, "Hey, God just really wants you back" to a backslidden former believer goes much further than a bottle of water that I just randomly hand out just to "show God's love in a practical way". I mean, there's nothing wrong with that per se, but it sure doesn't address the issue, the issue that God wants to use me to bring as many people as possible to Him for the first time or back to Him. I need to be willing to say more than just a few words.

    In addition, there have been truths spoken over people a few weeks ago, I went to a wedding in Wisconsin, but upon our return, God had my friends and I stop at a gas station in Iowa. Well, He wouldn't let us leave without speaking to the cashier. Her name was Betty and I just asked her how her night was going. She talked about how dead it had been, but said that her book was keeping her company. I simply asked, "Oh yeah? Whatcha readin'?" And she told me that it was a book on paranormal activity. BOOM! That was it. I knew at that moment why God wanted me to talk with her. Did I condemn her to hell? No. I spoke life over her. I told her of a scary incident I had when I was in my teens when I called a psychic and was almost date raped due to her "advice". Well, the cashier was very interested and I got the opportunity to speak Jesus' love over her when I said, "I bless you with knowing that your heart is the wellspring of life, but I'm learning more and more that that life has to be protected as we protect the portals, our eyes and ears, that will either bring death or life to that wellspring." She just looked at me. Oh, and the Holy Spirit also asked me to ask her if she was a mom and she was. Then, low and behold, there was a little book called "God's Promises for Moms" just under the counter where I was standing along with little Jesus figurines. It was soooo cool. I simply turned it over and had her scan the barcode. Then, I handed it to her, reached across and touched her hand and said, "I bless you with knowing God's heart for your heart. These are His TRUE promises for you, for WHO He says you are as 'Daughter of the Most High' (b/c she said she was a Christian). He has great joy over you and He wants you to know Him personally." That was it and we left as customers were entering the store. It was awesome though to watch her hardened heart soften before our very eyes. And when I reached across the counter to touch her, her eyes softened and I could tell she was feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit and the love of Jesus just embracing her. Yeah, so prophetic evangelism...God's pouring out His Spirit in the end-times and we're seeing it, it's Joel 2:28-29 and it's AWESOME!

  12. Late to the game here but I wanted to respond to both Dave and "Nobody".
    It probably won't feel good to hear this but I am a former Christian and a former VCC-er. Rest assured, it's not a reflection on Vineyard or its ministers that I have left the faith, it was a long time coming. What I want to say to Dave is pretty much what Ali said in her first paragraph, that it typically wasn't the "outsiders" or the "worldly" who hated the Christians. When those outside the faith showed hatred it was because the generosity and compassion of the Christians reflected poorly on them. A selfish hate, I guess. So, while I think this is probably not where you were headed with these thoughts I would caution you against being hated for the sake of being hated! Sadly, there are many Christians out there today who think they are supposed to be hated and persecuted and so they drum up hatred by being pushy and judgmental. It's really very backward.
    To Nobody, I hadn't heard that the Vineyard had stopped doing small works (my husband still attends). Was this an actual shift in the practices or just sort of a change that you sensed? Small things are fun, and I'm sure there is some benefit and it's an easy, non-committal way to affect change. However, having been the recipient of these small works a few times now I have to say, it starts to feel gimmicky. Paying for my donuts is great and that free bottle of water is really nice but you know what's really amazing? My sister is a social worker for Butler County Child Protective Services and guess where they send people when they don't have the resources to help them? Yep, the Healing Center. It's funny that the "family" I left can still make me so proud but it does. When I run across people from all over the Greater Cincinnati area and they KNOW that the Healing Center is the place to go, it just feels like somebody finally GOT IT. THIS is what Jesus wanted people to do! FEED, CLOTHE, EDUCATE, and LOVE the people around them. If Christians still want to help in small ways, why aren't they doing it? Or are they just doing their small works under a big umbrella (HC) where they're not necessarily seen? (Which, arguably, may be better anyway)
    The church is certainly still hated today. The difference is that it is hated because it's lost sight of its purpose and not because it is stepping up like we saw in the Bible, with a form of compassion and generosity that naturally puts others to shame.