Living as a Christian in a Hostile World

We live in a crazy, lost world. Political divides, war, genocide, infanticide, suicide. Mental illness, poverty, and violence, all amplified on social media as part of our daily feed. And while the screaming might seem louder and the voices amplified by the media, this discord is nothing new.

Two thousand years ago Jesus lived in a time when Rome was trying to take over Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. It was conquering nations and seizing control. In Asia, dynasties battled for control of China. There were coups and assassinations. There was civil war, tyranny, and greed.

Jesus was born at a time when Judea had been conquered by Rome and was ruled by the emperor Augustus, adopted son and great-nephew of Julius Caesar. Tiberius ruled when Jesus was crucified and the early Church blossomed during the rule of some of the worst Roman Emperors: Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero. Life under these rulers included torture and death.

Knowing he was soon to face death, and that his followers would also face persecution and possibly death, Jesus said:

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.

Jesus, John 15:18-21

Around the world, Christians are facing persecution. In America, we don’t face physical persecution, but a growing sentiment that Christians are bigots, hateful, and stupid. Some of this sentiment in the U.S. is deserved because of some Christians disobeying Jesus’ command to love. But some of this prejudice toward Christians is Satan at work, to turn the world from the truth of the gospel.

How are Christians to live in a world of darkness and hostility?

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Am I Loving Jesus?

In John 14, Jesus repeatedly tells us that obeying him equates to loving him. If I claim to love Jesus but don’t obey him, I need to question my claim of loving him.

If you love me, keep my commands.

Jesus, John 14:15

Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.

Jesus, John 14:21

Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

Jesus, John 14:23-24

Taking a personal inventory of my behavior helps me see if my love for Jesus is genuine or just lip-service.

Am I obeying Jesus’ Commands?

  • How do I handle insults and rejections because of Jesus? (Matthew 5:11-12)
  • Am I letting my light shine so people may see my good deeds and glorify God. (Matthew 5:16)
  • Am I lashing out in anger, or making sure my words are kind and loving, even when I am upset? (Matthew 5:21-22)
  • How I deal with someone who is upset with me? Do I reconcile with them and settle matters quickly? Do I forgive others? (Matthew 5:23-25)
  • Am I lusting? (Matthew 5:27-28)
  • Do I condone divorce? (Matthew 5:31-32)
  • How do I treat people who hurt me? (Matthew 5:38-39)
  • Am I praying for my enemies and showing them love? (Matthew 5:43-47)

These are just the start of the commands. Matthew 5-7 has many more, in addition to Jesus’ other commands in the Gospels. I need to know what Jesus commands by reading the Bible, meditating on it, and memorizing it. And then I need to put my love for him into practice by obeying, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Feeding My Soul

I am not a body with a soul. I am a soul with a body.

Unknown, random quote, most likely on a beach gif

I saw this quote recently while scrolling through Instagram or Facebook. I don’t remember who posted it. I think it was a fashion or travel blogger. Someone whose blog isn’t focused on faith and for all I know they were talking about yoga rather than God . . . but still, it stuck with me.

Today I read John 4, which has a theme of nourishment and physical and spiritual sustenance, which took me back to this quote and made me question the effort I put into making sure my soul is fed versus my physical body.

I am not a “foodie.” Theoretically, I’d like to be, but realistically I don’t like to cook or bake. I don’t like grocery shopping. I am a picky eater. If I go to a great restaurant, I usually get the most conservative, bland item on the menu. Eating grilled chicken is out of my comfort zone. But I try not to eat too much processed food. I try to drink enough water. I’m trying to eat more greens. I know that eating good, healthy, clean foods is better for me. I know there is a correlation between the health of my cells and the food I ingest. I am conscious of this correlation, and I know that if I am disciplined and selective about what I eat, I will have better physical health.

In John 4, Jesus talked about physical and spiritual nourishment:

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans. )

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

John 4:7-15

Our souls need nourishment just as much as our physical bodies. The “living water” that Jesus offers is salvation. By believing in him, our soul is quenched (see: John 7:37-38). A relationship with God is the only “drink” that offers life to our souls. Without Jesus, our souls will always be thirsty, seeking something to sooth it.

Jesus also talked about nourishment that comes from obedience to God:

Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.

John 4:31-34

Throughout John 4 there are also several references to Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine, which foreshadows the last supper when instead of turning water into wine, Jesus had the disciples drink wine that represented his blood, which he would shed for our sins.

From the time I wake up in the morning until the time I go to bed, my body sends my brain messages about what it needs. My stomach reminds me it is time to eat. My caffeine addiction tells me to make coffee. Sometimes I get a headache from too much of a substance or not enough of another. Sometimes I get shaky or have trouble consecrating. I hear these messages, and I usually know what they mean. If not, a quick visit to WebMD will give me a clue.

I am not just a body with a soul. I am a soul with a body. I need to tune into what my soul is telling me and make sure it is being fed.

  • Am I losing my temper? I need more time reading the Bible.
  • Am I anxious? I need more time in prayer.
  • Am I lusting? I need to practice obedience.
  • Am I coveting? I need to serve others.
  • Is my soul tired? I need to rest in Jesus.

Making sure my soul is fed with the Bible, prayer, and spiritual disciplines is just as important as making sure my stomach is fed.

Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.

Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Jesus, John 6:26-27,32-33,35