“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (James 4:17) This was what I discussed with a 12-year-old friend of my son’s as he was talking to his mom in my dining room yesterday. At that age, most kids are so worried about what everyone else is doing, and what everyone else thinks, aren’t they? They want to be young men and women. They want to make grown up choices, but often, what others think of them stops them from doing what they know they must do. Sadly, we don’t outgrow this sentiment. We worry that if we do this, or do that, our neighbors, or church members, or classmates, or coworkers, or bosses (or whomever else we want to use as a reason to not stand out for Christ) might make us outcasts, remove us, unfriend us, kick us out, fire us, and a number of other things.
Something we don’t consider in all of this, though, is that Jesus told us to expect pushback, imprisonments, persecutions, trials, and all sorts of things, because men love darkness rather than light. Not only did He say this would happen to us, but He demonstrated by His own life what would happen if we followed His path. And what did they say about Jesus? They said that He was demon possessed. They accused Him of leading people astray, they accused Him of setting Himself up as God, they accused Him of being a drunk, they accused Him of slander…and they then, beaten and bloodied a He was from chastisement, had Him nailed to a tree.
Many of us have never even received one tenth of what Jesus went through (though some have suffered greatly on account of the Kingdom), and what we’re really afraid of is losing our comfort. And God does not call us in to a comfort zone. We can’t exist with God within a comfort zone. He calls us to follow Jesus, to proclaim the Gospel, and to pick up our own crosses every day and follow Him. People will hate you, but they Hated Jesus before they hated you, and He can endure the hate, so trust in Him.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’
“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.