Going through my daily bible reading, I approached 2 Timothy 3 today. I knew this passage of Scripture was coming in my reading but I’d been enjoying Jeremiah so much this time around I hadn’t really mentally prepared for Paul’s letter to his “son” in the faith. (I read OT, NT, Psalms and Proverbs every day plus listen to a podcast that reads it. Helps me ground my day before it begins.)
The passage today (which actually was 2 Timothy 2:22-3:17) touched on various aspects of the last days and the way that people will become as we approach Jesus’ return. I’ve heard a lot of sermons about this part of my reading today focusing on sin and hammering away at sins usually committed by those who do not profess Christ as Lord:
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5 ESV)
Look, there’s no way to honestly deny we live in a world where you don’t have to go far to find many of those things outside the “church”.
And inside it as well.
However, that’s not the part of the passage today that really hit me hard.
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:12-13 ESV)
I won’t deny it’s tempting to downplay sin in an attempt to be popular. There’s a comfort that comes with acceptance that we tend to seek even without fully realizing we’ve made that decision. Once you enter the comfortable danger zone of seeking worldly acceptance, it’s not long before you start to wander far from God’s word. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to do that and it’s encouraged in many ways.
We have a culture in America right now where there seems to be a mindset that to represent Jesus to the world they have to like us. That we have to appear so innocuous to them that they won’t do anything to oppose us or stop us. That we have to be lauded by those who despise God as “enlightened” or “open-minded” or somehow a stellar example of Christ because what we say doesn’t offend those who don’t follow Jesus.
But that’s not what we’re taught in the Bible. Taking a position that the world has to like us is taking a position against God.
And if you want to dismiss that part of the Bible (as some are prone to do) because it Paul who wrote it down and not specifically said by Jesus…
You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:22 ESV)
I’m not saying be a jerk like Fred Phelps or those who stand outside abortion clinics screaming at the women about to make a horrific mistake. I’m talking about the times you’re at a coffee shop with a friend and they’re saying how great it is women can abort their children and you tell them that it’s not OK. It’s about the times someone who proclaims to be Christian is advocating something that goes completely against the Bible in the presence of people who refuse to follow Christ in an attempt to be accepted and saying “no, that’s not right.”
It won’t win you popularity contests. It will likely result in people calling you all kinds of names that don’t really fit the situation but they’ve been pre-programmed by the world to respond because they know other worldly people will join in without questioning the application of the deceptive words. These purveyors of true hatred are going to continue with their baseless claims of bigotry against you and seek to slam you through social media, websites, etc. because that is a socially-acceptable way to persecute someone in America. Electronic stones are frequently thrown and their use is celebrated by many against Christians (who would have a complaint if cyber-bullying was done in other cases, but I digress.)
You just have to accept that is part of what it means to truly, deeply follow Christ.
You have to be willing to reject the safety of one danger zone for a place that is significantly more dangerous…but one that leads to the life we’re called to live.