Willing to Be Hated?


The true disciple loves the Gospel more than the world.

“Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for My Name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
- Matthew 10:21, 22

Why look on these things with the eyes of your souls asleep? Why listen to such things with the ears of your senses dulled? Scatter, I beg you, the black shadowy fog of the faintness of your hearts, that you may see the radiant light of truth and humility. A Christian not middling but perfect, a priest not worthless but outstanding, a martyr not lazy but pre-eminent, says: “It is now that I am beginning to be a disciple of Christ.”
- Gildas, The Ruin of Britain, British, 6th century

Troubled by our troubling others
Christians in this country are beginning to wake up to the reality that many of our neighbors simply do not like us. And this troubles some of us, so much so, in fact, that we seem all too willing to avoid or alter whatever in our lifestyles or ministries might provoke unbelievers to anger, and to accommodate the faith of Christ to standards and practices that derive, not from the Word of God, but from the temper of the times.

We’re not the first generation of believers who have had to respond to hatred on the part of those beyond the pale of faith.

The churches in Britain and Europe in the generation following Patrick’s ministry in Ireland were in a sorry state. Lacking in spiritual vitality or vision, and compromised with the world in many ways, they had begun to fall into “ruin.” It had come to this point because church leaders were seeking to “fit in” with the way of things in post-Roman society, rather than to challenge various rulers and other powers, many of whom were at least nominal Christians, to seek the Kingdom of Christ rather than their own wellbeing, as they jostled for sovereignty in this or that part of the continent.

Just before the excerpt provided above from The Ruin of Britain, Gildas had quoted from a letter by Ignatius, the second-century bishop of Antioch, who declared his resolve to face martyrdom in Rome as a badge of honor for the Name of Christ. His courage, resolve, and willingness to die for Christ represented a quality of Christian faith unknown to the comfortable and complacent pastors in Britain, concerning whom Gildas addressed his remarks.

Fat and lazy?
The Church in Britain and Europe had grown fat and lazy by the time the first Irish missionaries began showing up in their parishes in the 6th and 7th centuries. It was a ruin of its former glory, and had lost that martyr’s outlook that was willing, if it were necessary, to be hated by all for the sake of the Gospel. Those who came from Ireland proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom were often hated by those whose comfort and privileges they disturbed by their uncompromising preaching and exemplary lives.

Often, they were opposed not only by violent and unscrupulous rulers and kings, but by status quo pastors and bishops who did not appreciate the challenge these men presented to their comfortable way of life.

Nevertheless, those Gospel-preaching missionaries persisted, ultimately prevailing to bring revival, renewal, and awakening to many of the ruined churches of Europe. They were willing to be hated by all if need be, but they would not accommodate their message to the status quo, or play along with the schemes and ways of magistrates or clerics who preferred the peace of this world to the peaceable Kingdom of Christ.

Misplaced sensitivities
Are we willing to be hated for the sake of the Gospel? Many church leaders urge us to be mindful of the sensitivities of lost people, and to make our churches places where unbelievers can feel welcome and right at home. They encourage us to tone down the rhetoric of our preaching so as not to offend anyone with our uncompromising language of sin, repentance, and dying to self; and they direct us to set aside the traditions and heritage of our forebears in the faith for the pottage of pop culture and a therapeutic approach to the life of faith.

In seeking to be sensitive to those around us, have we become insensitive to the demands of the Gospel?

What we find in many churches today is just the kind of ministry that had become the order of the day in Britain and Europe when Irish missionaries began to bring revival to the moribund, ruined churches of that age.

Gildas impugned the faith of the ministers of his day when he said they were not true disciples of Christ if they were not willing, for the sake of the Gospel, to be hated by all men. I wonder what he would say about us?

The true disciple loves the Gospel more than the world. He understands his calling to be one of bringing the world into conformity with the promises of Christ and His Kingdom, rather than the other way around. He understands there is a risk in this, but he is certain that truth and love will prevail to realize the will and purposes of God. Let the world hate us if it will, he reasons, but let us not shrink back from proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God to the people we meet each day. Some will hate us, some will simply roll their eyes.

But there will be a few, at least, who will be eternally grateful to God that you cared enough to take the risk of incurring their hatred because of your uncompromising commitment to the Gospel of the Kingdom.

“It is now that I am beginning to be a disciple of Christ.” Now? When? When we are reflecting the times in which we live, or working to transform them? If we would be Christians “not middling but perfect”, then we must be willing, for the sake of the Gospel, to be “hated by all.”

Next steps

Do you find yourself “tip-toeing” around spiritual matters with any of the people in your sphere of influence? Why? Are you afraid you might upset someone? Are you concerned about how they might respond to your urging them to consider Jesus? During the week to come, make a point to pray for each person you regularly see during the week, and to tell them you are doing so. See what God might do with this.


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