Friday, 31 August 2012
So my buddy shared a link on Facebook about some billboards – paid for by a group called American Atheists – that basically insult Jesus and Christianity. According to the article, the group was asked to take down their message after they and Adams Outdoor Advertising received an outpouring of “vitriol, threats, and hate speech” directed toward their staff.
All well and good, and it’s fair to question whether this outpouring of hate actually occurred, but I’ll assume that it did. I make that assumption because a large percentage of American Christians have demonstrated time and again that they can’t comprehend the meaning of this statement: We wrestle not against flesh and blood.
One of my buddy’s Facebook friends commented that he viewed these billboards as hate speech, and that those atheists were guilty of a hate crime – to which I replied that Jesus was more likely to give them (the atheists) something to eat than to press charges for a hate crime.
That simple statement resulted in an unleashing of vitriol against me by this person I don’t know. I was accused of putting words in Jesus’ mouth, being arrogant in my statement, and adopting “typical tactics." He went on to announce the coming judgment of Jesus on this type of thing (the billboards) and that there would be no “smarty pants gainsaying” after that. I presume he was referring back to my simple statement about Jesus.
This outpouring of negative passion did not offend me in the least, but it did reinforce my assertion that many Christians in America mistakenly believe that our enemies are the atheists, agnostics, and liberal professors, as if anyone who insults Jesus or Christianity is on God’s bad side and destined for hellfire (to the glee of Jesus and his followers).
So how did Jesus react to insults? Let’s take a look at Luke 9:51-56 (AMP):51 Now when the time was almost come for Jesus to be received up [to heaven], He steadfastly and determinedly set His face to go to Jerusalem.52 And He sent messengers before Him; and they reached and entered a Samaritan village to make [things] ready for Him;53 But [the people] would not welcome or receive or accept Him, because His face was [set as if He was] going to Jerusalem.54 And when His disciples James and John observed this, they said, Lord, do You wish us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, even as Elijah did?55 But He turned and rebuked and severely censured them. He said, You do not know of what sort of spirit you are,56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them [from the penalty of eternal death]. And they journeyed on to another village.
Here Jesus receives a major insult in the culture of his day – a refusal of hospitality. James and John suggest fiery judgment on the Samaritans, but Jesus rebukes them severely, reminding them that His mission is to save people from hell, not to harm or condemn them for their insults.
In other words, Jesus can take an insult. In fact, he has stated that “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven” (Mt 12:32). Since His followers are not above their Master, we also should expect to be insulted, and we should receive those insults with the same benevolent attitude. Our passion is to be for the salvation of men and women, not their destruction. Our enemy is not the atheist. The atheist is to be pitied and prayed for.
Our true enemy is unseen and powerful, and as long as he can distract us into being outraged over “hate speech” directed against our faith, he will succeed in producing hearts in us that are hardened toward the unsaved. Fighting for our civil or constitutional rights is only okay up to the point where we become more outraged over “hate speech” than we are over the lost going to hell. At that point it’s time to get reacquainted with Jesus and his mission, which is also ours.
How do you feel about billboards that criticize or insult Christ and Christianity? Did Jesus ever get upset when people insulted Him? How can we apply Christ's example of patience to the times in our lives when we feel like people are insulting our faith?