A few years ago, my wife was able to score us some tickets to a Penn State/Notre Dame football game. I’m a Penn State graduate. At the time we lived very close to the University of Notre Dame. So, when Penn State was playing at Notre Dame, because my wife is wonderful, she got us tickets to the game.
We both decked out in our best Penn State gear. I even got a new PSU hat because there is something my wife likes about a sharp dressed man. There was no doubt who I was cheering for.
One thing I underestimated, though, was the amount of harassment we would take AT Notre Dame. I know there are some places where it’s really not safe to wear the opposing team’s colors (i.e. Philadelphia … Eagles fans have thrown snowballs at Santa!) but I certainly didn’t think Notre Dame would fall into that category. Here we are in the mid-West. Hoosier hospitality would surely welcome us with open arms. We’re also at a Catholic university. So, I’m thinking mid-West, friendly Catholics. What could go wrong? But, as soon as we stepped foot on to the university, you wouldn’t believe the harassment we took! There was yelling, there was screaming, there were swear words (some of which I had never heard) … and that was just from the nuns! They were angry Catholics, let me tell you!
For those of us who are followers of Jesus, living out our faith is similar to that story. We want to put our faith on display. But for those of us who try to live our lives in submission to Jesus and His word, it’s becoming increasingly common to be discriminated against for doing so.
Billy Graham said, “Unless this nation turns to Christ within the next few months, I despair of its future.” He said that … but he said it in 1952. Living for Jesus has never been easy. It’s not easy today. It wasn’t easy in 1952. It certainly wasn’t easy 2000 years ago when the Church was getting started.
In our increasingly dark culture, I see us with an unparalleled opportunity to shine. But, the more “godless” our culture becomes, the easier it is for bitterness to take root. (i.e. the "red cup" controversy ... seriously ... it's a cup. If Starbucks stops selling Peppermint Mochas, then I might get upset.)
In much of what I hear on TV or the radio or read on social media, it doesn’t take long for me to see a lack of compassion for people who do not share our Christian beliefs. Instead of compassion, I often see hatred and contempt and ridicule. I know people who would rather see sinners punished instead of saved. If we want to make God known, we won’t do it by expecting someone who is not a follower of Jesus to live like one. We won’t do it by forcing our Christian beliefs on companies who are not Christian. We won’t do it by hiding our lights under the umbrella of judgment and ridicule. We set ourselves apart by living out the words of 2 Timothy 2:24 – 26 “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” Please remember, people who do not live their lives in submission to Jesus are not the enemy ... they are trapped by the enemy. So, yes, we stand for what Jesus stands for, but the goal of our stance is not to see God pour out his judgment upon the captives. It’s to see him pour out his grace and mercy bringing them to a knowledge of the truth. (Osborne) We … I … need to ask God to offer His grace to give me a greater desire to see someone saved from their sin instead of punished for their sin.
So, yes … stand out. Shine bright. But, don’t stand out solely based upon who or what you stand against. If anything sets us apart as followers of Jesus, please let it be Who we stand for. Our mission has never been to share values. Our mission is to share the greatest news to ever make its way through the ears and to the heart … the message of Gospel … that you are worse off than you could imagine, but more loved and accepted than you ever dreamed. (Keller) Jesus didn’t die to be the poster boy for a cause. Jesus didn’t die to promote your values. (Flores) Jesus didn’t even die to make bad people good, but rather to make spiritually dead people alive. (Giglio). The more I allow God’s grace to intersect my life, the more I will be able to extend that same grace to others.