We live at a time in Canadian history when Christianity finds itself experiencing a massive assault upon it’s fundamental belief system and moral code. Christians are increasingly viewed as narrow minded bigots who are a threat to the formation of an inclusive society that appreciates, embraces, and not only tolerates, but promotes every form of anti-Christian philosophy and behaviour. Christians, and their belief in an unchanging moral code, are more and more viewed as the stumbling block that stands in the way of the full implementation of this secular world view. This is very distressing to many Christians, but it should not be surprizing. We are not the first generation of Christians who have experienced hostility from the world around us and we certainly will not be the last.
The Early Christians experienced a great and steady wave of hatred directed toward them and the attitude of many pagan leaders and philosophers of that day was to treat them with great distain. During the reign of the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius (161-180), Celsus, a pagan philosopher, wrote concerning the Christians, “In some private homes we find people who work with wool and rags, and cobblers, that is, the least cultured and most ignorant kind. Before the head of the household, they dare not utter a word. But as soon as they can take the children aside or some women who are as ignorant as they are, they speak wonders…If you really wish to know the truth, leave your teachers and your father, and go with the women and the children to the women’s quarters, or to the cobbler’s shop, or to the tannery, and there you will learn the perfect life. It is thus that these Christians find those who will believe them.” (Origen, Against Celsus 3.55). Celsus went on to say, “Far from us, say the Christians, be any man possessed of any culture of wisdom or judgement; their aim is to convince only worthless and contemptible people, idiots, slaves, poor women, and children…These are the only ones whom they manage to turn into believers.” (Origin 3.59) Further he wrote, “Let no uncultured person draw near, none wise and none sensible, for all that kind of thing we count evil; but if any man is ignorant, if any man is wanting in sense and culture, if anybody is a fool, let him come boldly (to become a Christian)…We see them in their own houses, wool dresses, cobblers, the worst, the vulgarest, the most uneducated persons…they are like a swarm of bats or ants creeping out of their nest, or frogs holding a symposium around a swamp, or worms convening in mud.” (Origin)
Rather than getting distressed over the present-day growth of hostility toward Christianity in Canada, we should remember that from the very beginning, Christians have always been the object of ridicule, and we in our day are not immune to this antagonism. More importantly, we must remember the words of our master Jesus Christ in Matthew 5:11, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt.5:11). It seems to me that we should be more concerned if people do not insult us, persecute us or misrepresent us. Paul wrote to Timothy, ““Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
How should we respond to insult and misrepresentation? We should certainly try to correct these false caricatures of Christianity and offer an accurate representation of Jesus Christ to those who hate him, but we should also obey the teaching of Matthew 5:44 which says, “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” Jesus does not say, “repay insult for insult, and evil for evil,” No! He says, “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” He does not say, go online and vent your wrath against the world, No! He says, “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” We need to learn to love our enemies. We do this by persistently praying for them, and lovingly interacting with them; in doing so, we reveal to them the loving nature of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.