Easter was actually last week, but I’m just now getting around to wrapping up this series. I could give you all sorts of excuses as to why this post is late, but you don’t really exist, so I’ll spare you. Suffice it to say I was waiting for the right thoughts and the right words to wrap up this theme.
The theme of this season’s series is ‘Responding to a society that openly mocks our God.’ So far, meditating on this issue, I have determined that I am too quick to fight about it. Fighting about it is not what God wants, nor is it useful. I’ve also contemplated on the fact that if it weren’t for the Holy Spirit, I’d be just like all of the visitors that fill the pews on Easter Sunday, praising a God they don’t know and saying things they don’t understand. I’m thankful for that Spirit, even though it’s the same Spirit that makes me think I need to be cranked to 11 all the time.
The last thing I really want to focus on isn’t really about me at all, but rather the mocking world.
What you gotta be so rude, world?
I live in America where our culture is vaguely Christian. We all grew up with some basic familiarity with Christianity, even if we weren’t dragged to church every Sunday. Self-proclaimed atheists who grew up in a distinctly non-religious household can likely still name all 4 gospel writers and know just enough of the Bible to pretend their opinions are informed. Perhaps familiarity really does breed contempt because so many of these people who absolutely despise Christianity and openly mock it are also quick to defend Islam as a religion of peace. These secular-progressive atheists will defend your ‘right to believe’ as long as you don’t believe in Jesus. Christianity is somehow held up as the single culprit in some imagined centuries-old conspiracy to destroy science and rational thought.
They’ll believe in anything except the truth. They’ll defend anything except Christ. They try to rewrite history to try and remove God from the lives of people they otherwise admire. Just yesterday I saw a meme about how Martin Luther King Jr wasn’t really a Christian. You know, REVEREND King?
The world suffers from a sin-addled brain that inhibits clear thinking. I think we underestimate just exactly what it means to be LOST. If lost people knew how to find their way back, they wouldn’t be lost. Being lost in this sense is being totally helpless- so far from ‘found’ that it’s hard to even conceptualize. We have to turn no further than the Gospels to see this in action.
“Woman,” Jesus said to her, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Supposing He was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you’ve removed Him, tell me where you’ve put Him, and I will take Him away.”
Jesus said, “Mary.”
Turning around, she said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!”—which means “Teacher.”
Mary is Jesus’ #1 fangirl of all time, and she didn’t recognize Him. It wasn’t until He said her name that she had any clue what was going on. It’s not that she didn’t believe He was the Messiah, she just had a sin-addled brain. She couldn’t see Him for what He was. Something in her mind told her that Jesus being alive again was IMPOSSIBLE, and that thought was at the front of her mind rather than the truth He had been teaching them all for so long.
Fast forward a bit, Jesus goes to visit His disciples who are full on scared and hiding out. From their perspective, they’re all about to be murdered just like Jesus was. And while they will eventually be martyred for their faith, that’s a long way off. As a believer, this scene in the Bible is foreign to me. The greatest weapon in Satan’s utility belt is the fear of death- something that has no hold on me whatsoever. But that was not the case for these followers of Christ, who loved Him and believed in Him, but they didn’t possess the Holy Spirit.
19 In the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because of their fear of the Jews. Then Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!”
20 Having said this, He showed them His hands and His side. So the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 After saying this, He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
The entire time they’re following Jesus, they’re constantly asking stupid questions. I mean they just didn’t get it. It’s no fault of theirs. They wanted to believe and it struck them as the truth and they couldn’t deny what their eyes had witnessed, but at the end of the day, they couldn’t understand any of it. Let’s look at this scene when Jesus appears to them after He has died and been resurrected. In this account, He tells them twice “Peace be with you.” Take that to mean they weren’t feeling especially peaceful. Finally, He gives them this amazing gift- the gift that allows a bunch of freaked out fanboys to become the heroes of faith they were always meant to be- the gift of the Holy Spirit. Until this moment, they didn’t understand. They had no chance to become more than what they were. Until this moment, they were still slaves. Now they’re free. Now it’s all clicking.
Someone wasn’t there. Thomas was away when this happened. When he comes back everyone is trying to explain to him this amazing thing that happened. What luck, right? Jesus comes to visit and you’re down at the shop or something and miss the whole thing. Rather than kicking himself for missing such an incredible experience, he bows up. He doesn’t think it even happened- he doesn’t believe a word of it, despite the insistence of these people he has traveled with and loved as brothers. Their testimony means nothing to him. He wants to not only see Jesus with his own eyes, but stick his fingers into the wounds. Until then, he’s gonna sulk and be a brat (I assume).
John 20: 24-25 But one of the Twelve, Thomas (called “Twin”), was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “If I don’t see the mark of the nails in His hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe!”
A week later, Jesus shows up and says-
John 20:27 Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and observe My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Don’t be an unbeliever, but a believer.”
How does Thomas respond?
Jn20:28 Thomas responded to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
Congratulations, Thomas, you now possess the Holy Spirit. And don’t you feel like a butthole for doubting?
Nah. I mean pride is a massive hurdle. One of my favorite scientific studies to roll out is the one that says when you listen to cheesy pop music, your brain lights up like a Christmas tree. But despite what the brain-scan says, if asked whether or not you like what you just heard, you might say ‘no.’ That’s pride. There is social pressure from within and without that can outweigh what your body is telling you. If all your friends hate Justin Bieber, or you talk on and on about how terrible he is without every having listened, that pressure will outweigh the fact that you actually kinda like it, according to your body’s chemistry. I think that happens when it comes to God. Someone might feel a stir in their heart or feel conviction about their lives or know that it’s true, but at the end of the day they just can’t make the commitment. They don’t WANT Jesus to be Lord of their lives because it has implications they don’t want to face.
But Christ is King whether they bend the knee or not. His glory is not diminished by a person’s failure to believe in Him. There is no such thing as a worthy challenger to His rule, and so He sits atop His throne in glory, exacting perfect judgement in perfect time.
Finally recognizing it and bending the knee, making Jesus Lord of your life is not a small thing and one shouldn’t feel like a butthole for doubting. Without possession of the Holy Spirit, even His best friends on this planet didn’t understand what the heck was going on. They watched Him perform like 50 full on miracles and they still doubted. This is how it should be. It’s not something to laugh at. It’s what we should expect.
So what do we say to a society that openly mocks our God? How do we respond when someone who is ‘spiritual but not religious’ talks about the peaceful nature of Islam and calls our God a hateful moral monster? How do we react when someone who gets the entirety of their information from internet memes thinks they’re an authority on the “true origins” of our holy days?
I don’t have an easy answer. As frustrating and sometimes as offensive as it is, this is how it’s supposed to be. The world HATES God. It HATES the truth of Christ. The lost people are so lost they really have no idea what they’re doing or saying. Being mad at them or lashing out at them won’t do any good. Our hearts shouldn’t be oriented to those kinds of reactions anyway.
Trying to force them to be like us and tell them that we know what is best for them isn’t going to do any good either. It’ll just shore up their defenses and turn a general dislike into a personal grudge and that is quite counterproductive.
In my opinion, I really do think we should be putting ourselves in positions where we simply unleash the lion rather than arguing. What do you think?