I was recently listening to a sermon in which the preacher was heavily emphasizing the persecution we experience as "aliens and strangers" in this world. He made a very good point when he said, "It is hard to die for Christ, but it is hard to live for Him too!"
I recently got an up close dose of these truths when I was thrust into a situation where I was dealing closely with several unbelievers. I realized how very alien I am in comparison to the unsaved world's philosophies as I listened to those around me supporting and espousing things that are in complete opposition to the Word of God. During that conversation I had some difficult choices to make, would I be silent and internally disagree or would I say what I believe and risk upsetting them?
This is a decision many of you make every day at work as you interact with unbelievers. There is great temptation to hold your opinion in those moments, isn't there? I don't know anyone who wants to be ridiculed or made fun of for their beliefs. It seems we are nearly in a temporary no-win situation as we don't want to be fighting and arguing about our faith with those who do not agree or believe. Yet, I find it equally disturbing to have the name of Christ trampled and what I believe constantly slammed as foolishness.
It is the fear of man that causes us to want the approval of our friends, family, and co-workers. Fear of Man is also knows as co-dependency in the psychological circles and is the term used when our desire to be well thought of means more to us than our desire to glorify God. Many, many of us suffer from fear of man issues.
When the opinion of man means more than the opinion of God or obedience to His Word we have placed something else in the position of Lordship in our hearts and lives.
Many of our biblical predecessors struggled with this problem. You might be surprised to know a few of their names are Abraham, Elijah, and Peter. Each of them was more concerned about what other people would think of them than what God would think about their actions.
What do we do when we are tempted to bow to fear of man? During those times of doubt, rejection and ridicule the only response can be a Christ-like response. As always, we must look to the Bible for direction and wisdom in how to respond.
Fix your eyes on Jesus... Heb 12:2
Fixing your eyes on Him will help you more than any fleshly response you can come up with. Taking that vertical view will turn the sorrow of rejection by man into the joy of understanding we have been chosen by God. The vertical view will refocus rejection into amazement that we are accepted in the beloved despite our sinful condition and that we have been embraced by a loving and holy God. Such a vertical view ought to elicit joy without boundaries!
Can I promise you that the pain of rejection or ridicule will stop? Of course not! Feeling the pain is a part of our identification with Christ and it reminds us that we belong to Him. When I am ridiculed for my beliefs I remind myself over and over to answer curses with blessings, and to show those who mock me a Christ-like response in spite of the sinful desires of my flesh. Each swear word hurts. Every mocking response wounds my tender heart, but I try to see those people with the eyes of Christ.
The reality is that they are lost and hard of heart, so how can I expect them to act any differently! I was once the same way and God took pity on me and saved my soul. We have no way of knowing how many representations of Christ a person has to see (and God uses) to soften the heart of an unbeliever that God has chosen to eventually become one of His own. We have no way of knowing today how our witness for Christ will be used in the future in their lives.
Be encouraged when your faith brings ridicule and rejection into your life and keep that vertical view in mind!