One of the common assumptions within the Church (and outside of the Church) is that all Christians are supposed to be really nice people. We should always be polite, have good manners, and speak respectfully. We should be agreeable, hug everyone, always smile and act happy. Niceness should ooze out of us so much that everyone likes us. We should go out of our way to not make people really mad.
Then we read things like this in John 17:14, in the middle of one of Jesus’ longest prayers in the Bible, where he says this to God:
“I gave your word to [the disciples] and the world hated them, because they don’t belong to this world, just as I don’t belong to this world.”
Wait, what? Didn’t he mean to say, “I gave your word to them and the world really liked them because they were so darn nice all the time?”
Nope. Apparently not. That’s not what Jesus said and that’s not what Jesus did. Jesus made people angry because he challenged the status quo and stood up for what was right and good and consistent with the love of God. He didn’t win any popularity contests for doing that; instead, he was arrested and killed for it. And he prayed for his disciples because he knew that if anyone really followed him, they were probably going to ruffle the feathers of the people around them too.
Want to know if you’ve received Jesus’ word? Want to know if you’re living out Christian values? Want to know if you’re really following Jesus? Ask this question: when’s the last time I made someone really mad?
Here are some ideas on how you can do that, all of which Jesus did pretty often, all of which angered quite a few people:
1) Call into question something your church does because they’ve “always done it that way.” Challenge them to do something that might be more effective at communicating the love of God to the people in your community who don’t already know about it.
2) Stand up for somebody who everybody else seems to be against. Speak openly about the fact that even our most hated enemies were created by God.
3) This last one will be fun in an election year: reevaluate multiple political positions based on faith rather than on political party. Then, speak out against a popularly held political view that might be inconsistent with God’s message of love, justice, peace, etc. To make it even more fun, pick one popular view from each party that you can speak out against! (Trust me, they all get it wrong in one way or another!)
These are three ways that I’ve gotten myself in trouble over the past few years or so. Whenever I’ve done something like this and made someone angry, I’ve looked back at this verse in John and figured I must be doing something right! If we as Christians are only making people happy all the time, we may not be doing all of the things Jesus asks us to do, speaking up for all the people Jesus asks us to speak up for, reaching all the people Jesus asks us to reach.
When is the last time you stood up for something that was right and good and consistent with the love of God? What are the ways you’ve made people really mad by taking a stand based on your faith?
God, may we have the courage to follow you regardless of the cost.