OK not to be liked

We’re living in a day and age where it’s deemed critically important to be liked by everyone. The mega social media platform, Facebook, is built around the whole concept of liking or disliking something or someone, with the intended goal of getting as many page and individual post likes as possible. There are hundreds of articles written on how to get more likes. Want to increase your likes? Easy, get out your credit card and we’ll make it happen.

With that said, who doesn’t like to be liked? No one that I know of. Worse than someone not choosing to like you on social media, is the dreaded unlike. That’s where someone intentionally dislikes you. With one quick click, you’re voted off the island against your will. Devastating!

Unfortunately, this whole “please like me” fad permeating today’s culture, has leaked over into the church. As a result, far too many pastors, church leaders, and Christians in general, are bending over backwards to be liked. But to be universally liked means that you must be constantly on your guard not to offend anyone, ever. And that, my friends, is a big, big problem.

Many people today have a very warped understanding of what the Bible actually says about heaven, hell, sin, marriage, sex, etc. Because when asked, too many Christians – afraid of offending or being unlikable – remove the rough edges of biblical truth.

Jesus never watered down the truth, because to do so compromises God’s Word and does a severe disservice to those who need to hear it. Jesus also new that Christianity was not a popularity contest. In fact, quite the opposite. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.” (Matt. 10:16). “Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.” (1 John 3:13).

An ancient proverb states that you can judge a man’s character by who his enemies are. That’s also true in the spiritual realm. The world loves its own, but since Christ chose believers out of the world, the world hates them (John 15:19).

Remember, the world hated Jesus so much that it killed Him. We, as His followers, can also expect hostility. “If the world hates you,” Jesus said in John 15:18, “you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.”

Peter noted the reason for the world’s hostility to Christians when he wrote, “[Unbelievers] are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.” (1 Peter 4:4).

How we live our lives as Christians should make unbelievers very uncomfortable in their sin, and remind them of coming judgment. But I don’t see much of that happening today. And, it’s not going to change until this generation gets over this silly “please like me” phase.

“without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved-and that by God.”  Philippians 1:28

Conform or be hated

Most people do not like being the odd man out. In other words, that person who clearly does not fit in with the rest. Visibly different. Noticeably not like everyone else.

For the most part we learn from a young age to conform. Conform is defined as being similar in form or type, and is even further defined as “to agree with.” Whenever Melinda and I are going to an event where one or the other of us is not certain how most will be dressed, we are careful to make sure we find out. After all, no one wants to be that person who clearly didn’t get the memo, and looks seriously out of place. Most people want to blend in, not stand out.

For the Christian, conformity can be a good thing or a bad thing, based on who we’re conforming to. We are told explicitly not to conform to the world (Rom 12:1), but rather to conform to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). This is where things get really difficult. Why you ask? Well, because Jesus said that “the world” – that same world that we’re not to conform to – actually hates Him! And therefore, it also hates us. That is, those of us who are conforming to Him.

Hate is defined as an intense or passionate dislike. That’s putting it mildly. Hate is a very strong word. So, strong that it’s now become its own crime. But Jesus made it perfectly clear that if you refuse to become a part of the world’s system, meaning that if you refuse to conform to the generally accepted group-think of today’s culture, you should expect hatred and opposition. Like it or not, you will be the odd man out!

And, here lies the conundrum. How does the person who seeks to be dressed like everyone else – to not be unduly noticed or offend the host – accept the fact that the more he conforms to Christ, the more he will be shunned, insulted, ridiculed, called out, and ultimately hated.

Recent research shows that college-aged millennials today are far more likely than the general population to be religiously unaffiliated, compared to previous generations. Just over 60 percent of millennials say they have abandoned Christianity because it is “judgmental”. Which, of course, is another way of saying that Christians clearly did not get the cultural group-think memo. The one that says everyone has the right to do whatever they want, and not be criticized.

So, what will it be? (A) Play it safe, try not to be too different. Do everything you can to fit in with the rest. Or, (B) forget the world and its sinful system, and conform to Christ. Live life as the odd man out, visibly different, and at odds with the status quo.

Jesus says, “Choose B!” The disciples, who ultimately turned the world upside down, were so much like Christ that people started calling them Christians, which means “Little Christs.”

“So that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.” Philippians 2:15

Retreat or Engage

Retreat or Engage

We’re living at a time when with increasing measure, as Christians, we are going to have to decide to do one of the following; retreat or engage. I know plenty of sincere and committed Christians who don’t want to pick a culture war with anyone. They’re not looking to rumble over religion. But they also don’t want to potentially face losing their job over refusing to attend the office party thrown for their coworker, to celebrate his recent marriage to his same-sex partner.

As Denny Burk said, in his article titled What the Future Holds, Christians are beginning to realize that their place in American life is now being adjudicated in the court of public opinion. And it is not at all clear whether this will end well for the Christian church.

Some Christians believe that we should retreat and disengagement from the culture. Others say that we need to engage the culture war and fight for what’s right, based on what the Bible teaches.

So which is it, fight or flight, retreat or engage?

Let’s look the words of Jesus’ prayer just before He was handed over to be crucified. His prayer focused not only on his disciples, but also on all those who would come to saving faith through His death and resurrection. So the beauty of this prayer is that Jesus was praying for us.

Jesus prayed, I don’t ask that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. Score one for engage.

Jesus is quick to clarify that we are not OF the world. World in this case is not referring to planet earth, but a term describing humanity in its fallen state and rebellion against God. Jesus then gives the secret to making our engagement with the world successful, and it is this; God’s sanctifying truth. He says, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

And there you have it. Our personal sanctification, that is, the power of God’s Holy Spirit reshaping our will to His, and conforming us to the image of Christ, even as we live in an amoral and increasingly Godless culture, will ultimately win the day. People will not be able to escape the fact that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. But we must be friends with unsaved people in order for them experience the difference in our lives. Otherwise, aren’t we just talking to ourselves?

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6