“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” (John 17:14-19, ESV)
Either you are or you aren’t. When people don’t know you are different they might assume you are one of them and everything goes pretty smooth, but when they realize that you aren’t like them or don’t believe as they do then what makes you different becomes quite huge. This can be true if you are engaged in truly hideous things or you are engaged in the most upright and godly things. Being different comes with being distinguished, and being distinguished gives others something to point at and judge.
Christians, aren’t immune from this and oftentimes they don’t respond well to those who don’t think or live according to biblical directives. But when we realize that if it weren’t for salvation in Christ and being made a new creation with the Spirit in us, we are also reminded that we really weren’t any different. Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. What makes us different is that we’ve known God’s love, been given full and complete forgiveness, and have inherited eternal life while the rest are still in need of it.
But no matter how loving or tactful we are in sharing this incredible news of salvation in Christ, there are going to be those who will reject the message because they have no regard for God or His Son. And there are those who will oppose us simply because we stand with Christ and hold to the Word of God as accurate, applicable, and infallible. When the Bible says that all have sinned and someone holds tightly to something that it calls sinful then those who hold to God’s Word, even without a word, become the opposition and objects of hate.
Sure, some are more visible and vocal targets because of a public stand they’ve taken. But even those who take a quieter stance within their smaller circle find that standing with God has relational impacts. This is true of the family member who may love another family member, but who refuses to endorse or embrace the lifestyle of that family member. It can be difficult and challenging knowing the pressure of bending to make others happy while choosing to lovingly stand with God and His truth.
The public face of this problem is growing every day in our social and business circles as people of faith are attacked because their faith shapes how they do business and what they are willing to do or not do in the course of their business. While choosing to take a stand for truth they become the subjects of public and media ridicule, legal sanctions and judgments, and even physical attacks of various sorts and degrees.
Jesus prayed to the Father saying that He had given His disciples the Father’s word and that the world hated them because of it. He knew the priority of the cause for which He was sent which was to bring salvation to man. Because of that He asked the Father not to abort the plan and remove His disciples, but rather to protect them in the face of evil attacks. Where once they were as everyone else, they had changed and had become believers in Christ, no longer marching to the ways of the world.
Then Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them in truth.” The word sanctify means “set apart for a particular use.” The disciples were called by God and set apart for ministry. Now as Jesus was leaving He prayed that the Father would so set them apart and firmly imbed in them the truth they had heard that they would not be shaken no matter how intense the attack. Jesus was committed to the task for which He was sent (consecrated) knowing that the disciples and all who believed would take up what was left so that the Father’s plan would be brought to its perfect end.
We are called to an important work and every day there will be challenges. In this we are to be constantly mindful that it was God who called us and who appointed us to this task, and it is Him would will keep us to the end. Recognizing that Jesus came in the fullness of truth, we are to be people who hold to and speak truth. But we also read that Jesus came in the fullness of grace. There is not one of us who deserves God’s love or His salvation, but He did this for us because He loves us. As we stand for truth we also are to stand with grace knowing that even then we will be attacked simply because we are not one of them and the evil one does not want to let them go. But God is bigger. We are to trust Him and see what He will do as we are also sent into the world.