“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” Jesus, Jn. 15:18
In the previous installment, I showed how Jesus challenged worldly wisdom on several levels. His entire life and ministry was an affront to the wisdom of the age. The person of Jesus is a major obstacle to the worldly mind.
At the heart of this challenge is Jesus’ own claim to be more than a man from Nazareth. His greatest offense was in aligning himself with God—both in his Kingdom mission and divine identity (Matt 21:33-46; Jn 3:16; 14;9b).
There was (and is) nothing palatable about Jesus Christ of Nazareth to those who love the world and have made their home in it. There is simply too much to stumble over when Jesus is not accepted on his own terms.
If you’re just joining this blog series, I said in the introduction that I’m using seven provocative statements as a way of summarizing the radical life and teachings of Jesus. This is why the world system hates Jesus of Nazareth.
And why the world hates those who follow him.
Before we wrap up this series with a final statement and overview of what has been covered, we must consider yet another controversial and often misunderstood aspect of the gospel of Christ. This concerns Jesus’ attitude toward sin, and a world that refuses to repent of it for the Kingdom.
6. Jesus Was Loving and Intolerant
Jesus lived in a Roman world that prided itself in the so-called “tolerance” of others. You could see this tolerance most clearly displayed in the Pantheon—a sanctuary of religious tolerance—that housed all of the gods of empire.
Rome boasted that it was the land of the free. There was freedom to celebrate religious and cultural diversity. As long as people played the system, followed the rules, and habitually pledged their allegiance to Caesar, they could live a relatively peaceful life—reaping benefits of empire.
While tolerance never made it to any written list of cardinal virtues, it was expected of every good citizen. Be tolerant in so much as the Roman way is protected and preserved. Rome defined tolerance and guarded it by force.
But the limits of this tolerance would become visible if and when someone threatened the Pax Romana (peace of Rome)—the Roman way of life. They would surely suffer Roman ridicule and violence, even a Roman cross.
Whether it be in ancient or modern times, a rejection or intolerance of societal norms is seen as ignorance and bigotry. The world’s tolerance ultimately requires that the only standard be no standard at all.
“Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.” G.K. Chesterton
It is good to be informed about differing opinions and respectful of another person’s point of view, but the tolerance of the world goes further by denying a fundamental basis for truth. It scoffs at objective truth claims.
It’s an old question. “What is truth?” Pilate asked Jesus (Jn 18:38). A few chapters earlier, Jesus said this to his disciple Thomas:
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 NIV
In the original Greek, the words of Jesus are emphatic on himself being the way, the truth, and the life. It should read like this: “I MYSELF am the way, the truth, and the life” (εγω ειμι η οδος και η αληθεια και η ζωη).
This exclusive claim is anything but tolerant, according to the way the world defines tolerance. It is this very claim of Jesus that the early Christians upheld when they said they belonged to “The Way” of Christ (Acts 9:2).
It is no wonder that Christianity could not be tolerated by Rome. Seen through the eyes of a Roman, Jesus and his followers were intolerant, hateful bigots, and a subversive threat to a “civilized” society.
Jesus made an exclusive claim to be the only way to God. It’s the sort of thing you would expect from a guy that believes he is God in the flesh.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that Jesus uses his authority to speak on the destructive nature of sin as human disfunction which misses the mark of God’s holy design. Sin distorts the image of God within the individual and breaks community with God and others. It’s a misuse of human energies.
“In a world that has lost a sense of sin, one sin remains: Thou shalt not make people feel guilty (except, of course, about making people feel guilty). In other words, the only sin today is to call something a sin.” Christopher West
Jesus, the sinless savior, loved sinners (Matt 9:13; Rom 5:8). He saw the world before him being held captive by sin and the devil (Mk 10:45). Because of this he loved the most wretched of sinners and treated them as victims. He didn’t come to condemn the world, but to save it (Jn 3:16-17).
“Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting outsiders, not insiders—an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out.” Luke 5:31-32 MSG
Out of this love Jesus was motivated to confront sin at work in people. Jesus heals the sick and says things like, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (Jn 5:14b NIV). This willingness to call out sin was not like that of the self-righteous, law-loving Pharisees. Jesus means to redeem.
Recall the story of the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8:1-11).
The religious leaders bring the frightened woman to Jesus. They want to know if he will follow the letter of the Law and stone her to death. Jesus writes something cryptic in the sand, causing all of those ready to execute her to drop their stones and leave. He says, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (v.7). BOOM!
Pay careful attention to what Jesus says next.
“Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” Jn 8:10-11 NLT
Jesus rebukes those who are self-rightous, and he reveals that his followers are to get down in the dirt with people. You open the sinner’s heart with God’s merciful love, so that repentance may give way to new life.
Jesus is showing the way to repentance for all who desire the Kingdom.
Jesus was no legalistic Pharisee. But he also wasn’t a libertine either.
According to Jesus, freedom isn’t about doing whatever you want, or even living in a society that does what it pleases. Instead, Jesus lived and taught that the gospel of the Kingdom is that salvation is received by grace, actualized through faith, and worked out in obedience to his commands.
True freedom is found in the cruciformed-looking Kingdom of Christ. It’s the new world God is shaping. And he’s doing it one disciple at a time.
If you’re going to follow Jesus, you need to know that the world doesn’t tolerate those who are intolerant of the Zeitgeist (spirit of the age), whose real leader is Satan himself (Jn 12:31; 16:10-12; 2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2; 6:12).
Jesus-followers should speak the truth and act in love for the sake of reconciliation and redemption. Like Jesus, we are willfully intolerant of the world system, because some things are just stupid and sinful.
D.D. Flowers, 2013.
Stay tuned for final post… 7. Jesus Revealed the New Way to be Human.