The Hatred and Persecution of Christians
(Marvel Not If The World Hate You)
Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
Sermon Delivered 10/9/05
"Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you." 1 John 3:13
Scripture Reading – John 15:18-25
The hatred and persecution of Christians is nothing new. In 64 A.D. Nero unleashed his fury against Christians, falsely accusing them primarily hate crimes to cover up his culpability in the burning of Rome. The first-century Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus provides some insight in his classic work, "Annals." Here's a translated excerpt from "Annals" 15:44, describing Emperor Nero's reaction to the burning of Rome:
"But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an [his] order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus [Christ], from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired."
What I want you to notice is that Christians were charged with "hatred of mankind." Isn't that interesting? They were convicted of "hate crimes."
Increasingly Christians who stand up for Biblical teachings are objects of hate and derision in America and they likewise are being accused of "hate" speech and "hate" crimes. Here are some examples -- A government report blamed Christianity for causing teenage suicides. Published in 1989 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it accused Catholics, Baptists, and other Christian groups of depicting homosexuality as morally wrong, thus creating "unresolvable internal conflicts for youth who adhere to their faith but believe they will not change their sexual orientation." The recommendation: churches must change their beliefs. "Religion needs to reassess homosexuality in a positive context..." ["Government Tells Churches What to Teach," AFA Journal (October 1989).]
Former liberal CBS News Dan Rather, blamed Christians for attacks on homosexuals in an April 11 editorial for the magazine Nation. He wrote, "Gays and lesbians are beaten to death in the streets with increasing frequency - in part due to irrational fear of AIDS but also because hatemongers, from comedians to the worst of the Christian Right, sent the message that homosexuals have no value in our society."
Former Texas governor Ann Richards labeled pro-life Christians "mongers of hate" who "preach their anger" and "have turned the party of Lincoln into the party of Operation Rescue."
Recently a Christian employee of Hewlet Packard was fired for posting Bible verses condemning homosexual behavior on his desk in response to posters displayed during a company campaign to promote a diverse work force.
I well remember the denunciation of the late Reggie White, an All-Pro defensive end for the Green Bay Packers, because he stated in a speech his Christian beliefs regarding homosexuality. CBS almost immediately cancelled his pending sports casting contract. During his speech, White declared that he is "offended" by the comparison of struggles of homosexual groups to those of blacks. "Homosexuality is a decision. It's not a race," he said. At about the same time, CBS announced plans to air the Howard Stern Show, featuring raunchy language, nudity and graphic sexual content. Nike agreed to retain Reggie as a spokesman, but Nike Chairman Phil Knight denounced Reggie as "crazy." The Campbell Soup Company declined to renew Reggie's endorsement contract, saying that his "comments are not consistent with the principles of the Campbell Soup Company."
The late Ronald Reagan said this about those who attacked the biblical values of Christians – "The frustrating thing is that those who are attacking religion claim they are doing it in the name of tolerance, freedom, and open-mindedness. Question: Isn't the real truth that they are intolerant of religion? They refuse to tolerate its importance in our lives."
Liberals, Atheists, Hedonists, and the pro-death crowd indict Bible believing Christians as "intolerant," "radicals," "hate mongers," "fanatics," etc. who want to establish a Christian version of Taliban government with a message of hate and fear. However, their real goal is to stigmatize the beliefs and values of Christians so that people believe we are extremists, bigots and fanatics and will ignore us.
Why Does The World Hate Christians?
The Christians message is not a message of inclusiveism or relativity. It is an exclusive, absolute message. It is not a broad message but a narrow message. And that makes people mad! Verses that confirm this are – Matthew 7:13-21, John 10:1, 7-10; Acts 4:12; 1 John 5:11-13; John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5-6.
Our Lord Jesus Christ said, "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved." John 3:19-20
The world hates Christians because when we speak-up for righteousness and live righteously the behavior of the sinner is "reproved," that is, shown to be sinful. Paul knew what that was like. He was beaten with whips and sticks and even stoned, all because of his holy living and holy witnessing. He wrote to young Timothy - "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." 2 Timothy 3:12
The Christian’s aim is to be bold for the Lord. Paul is our mode. He said, "According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Philippians 1:20-21
When you love God, you hate evil (Psalm 97:10). Hating evil is not synonymous hating the perpetrator of that evil. I regularly preach against sin that God hates because I want the sinner to come under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, repent of their sin and trust Christ as their Savior. Why? So they don’t God to Hell! I was a Hell bound sinner and, praise God, someone shared the Gospel with me and trusted Christ!
Those who hate God and His Son Jesus Christ would have
us shut our mouths and go cower in the corner. But we must not. I will
conclude by issuing you the same challenge Paul issued to Timothy in 2
Timothy 4:1-8. Marvel not if the world hate you.