18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
Jesus said that Christians should expect persecution. But in general, Christians in 21st century America are not being persecuted. I know that I’m not. I can only think of a few possibilities.
1. Maybe Jesus was wrong.
2. Maybe we are living in such a sanctified time that most people are saved, and the fulfillment of the kingdom of heaven is just around the corner, at least in America. Everybody loves Jesus, pretty much, so we aren’t being really persecuted.
3. Maybe when people say things like “Organized religion is a crutch for the weak” and say or write nasty things about us, and hold ugly signs about Christians, maybe _that_ is what Jesus meant by “persecution”. Sometimes they even make fun of us in movies and on TV.
I don’t really think any of those options could be correct. Instead, maybe what Jesus said explains it: If ye were of the world, the world would love his own.
Could it be that we are not being persecuted, not because America is so godly, but because Christians are worldly? There’s no real reason to persecute us. No reason to persecute me. I’m not all that different from anyone else. There’s sort of a fuzzy middle ground in our experience that includes the upper-lower, middle, and lower-upper classes; moral people who have only been divorced once or twice max, who don’t swear too much (or in Christians’ cases, not at all, right?), who don’t go to really trashy movies, are heterosexual, don’t have abortions, don’t beat their kids, don’t run around on their spouses, and so on. Just sort of normal middle-class America. Good morals, love their families, keep their grass mowed types. Sometimes say grace before a meal, at least at Thanksgiving.
I fit right in.
God calls me to “be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15) and I’m not. There is not a difference between me and a moral pagan, at least not a difference that could be reasonably described in the terms of “light” vs “a crooked and perverse nation”.
Either God was exaggerating, or our nation is not “crooked and perverse”, or maybe – just _maybe_ – I’m not “blameless and harmless”, “without rebuke”, shining “as lights in the world”.
It’s a simple test. If you’re doing what’s right, you ought to be hated by the ungodly. I feel like I’m failing this test. I don’t stand out, and I don’t think it’s because we’ve managed to dispel the darkness.