These things I command you, that you love one another. If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love it's own. Yet 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 keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.
Jesus loves us. He loves us even if we don't love or acknowledge Him. But knowing this does not exempt us from receiving Him. I cannot presume to know the condition of anyone's heart. Only God knows. I think we can receive Christ in many ways. For some it is outward with amazing results. For others it can be a quiet change. For me it was realizing I needed His help in my life; the sin became evident later when I realized He would be doing the work in me, not the situation!
When we come to Christ our lives aren't suddenly pain free or trial free. Things don't always happen the way we want them or expect them to. God's ways are the right ways. This is something we learn as we learn about Him. We still go through things we would rather not. We grow from these difficult times. Being a Christian is not always easy but is beneficial.
Look at Jesus. His life wasn't easy. He knew what He was here on earth to do. And He ran that very same race to achieve the goal that was set before Him...death on the cross. But, oh, what love. To die for all mankind. For anyone who chooses to receive Him in their lives. To always be pleading to the Father, Forgive them for they do not know what they do. We follow in His footsteps and run a similar race to receive our own glorious prize, eternal life with Christ in heaven. Seeing our Savior face to face at last...
What does He then call us to do? The same thing. Love as He loved. To live a life pleasing to Him. To, as believers, spread the Gospel message...and endure the persecution of others not wanting to hear the message, which is dying also as He died, to self (a very hard thing to do on our own). Remember that Jesus knew He was innocent. He did not defend Himself because He knew His Father knew He was not guilty. He was doing His Father's will. He chose to suffer to end up at the right hand of His Father. We also must continue despite what others think. To love those who do not know Him or who don't want to know Him. To forgive as He forgives. But continue just the same. Sometimes that love comes in the form of convicting someone through your words, which some won't like.
I was as guilty as the next before I knew Christ as far as not wanting Him or thinking I needed Him. But there comes a moment in time when the truth becomes evident and we change in a heartbeat and choose Him. It's inconceivable that I could have brushed Him off for so many years. That I paid no attention to Him or even thought of Him. But then to suddenly have His Word and words become so alive after His Holy Spirit became part of me. And I have to remind myself frequently that others do not know what they do. And I have to ask God to forgive me of forgetting this. I am reminded also that not all the people we know will receive Jesus. And we must continue anyway. We must not give up.
I was chosen to come out of the world. Do you know how amazing that is? To be called... And it's for anyone who responds to His call. But here's the clincher, He may call us and we respond but not everyone is going to be enamored by the new you. You can be reviled, thought of as arrogant, holier than thou. You can lose friends, family, even your job because of it. Look at the world and even our country. The offense of Christianity and anything having to do with it...yet we are to be tolerant of others. A double standard. That's persecution too.
What keeps me grounded is knowing that this is supposed to happen. Jesus tells us this: If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. However, there's a great consolation in knowing that while others don't share my views, God knows. And I have a church family that does. I used to be on "the other side" being disgusted with all this God stuff. Today I realize that when I did that I was ultimately rejecting God. And what is the very first thing we have been commanded to do? Love the Lord, your God with all your heart, will all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind. That's pretty "all"-encompassing.
He is to be first so He can be our last. From one's spiritual birth to earthly death and spiritual, eternal life. The persecution is minor in the grand scheme of things. I thought about this early this morning. Persecution and trials may seem daunting in our lives, but are next to nothing when compared to what we will have on the other side of this life. And, no, we do not come back in some other form until we have perfected ourselves! When we are in Christ we are complete and we will be perfected when He returns. (Romans 8)
1Peter 1:6-9 - In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation
of your souls.