There is a well-known scene in the popular 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz” where the main character Dorothy, played by Judy Garland, finds herself in the strange and wonderful Land of Oz. Dorothy turns to her canine companion and says, “Toto, I have a feeling we are not in Kansas anymore.”
It is true to say that Christians increasingly feel, culturally speaking, that we are not in Kansas anymore. On the issues of the day the moral tide is turning against us and the cultural wind is shifting in a direction away from Christian thought and truth. As believers in the West, we no longer enjoy “home field advantage.” Our stand on the supremacy of Jesus Christ, the authoritative and binding nature of Scripture, human sexuality and heterosexual marriage, to name a few, puts us at odds with the prevailing opinions of an exceedingly visible and vocal progressive society. Our theological commitments and gospel centeredness invariably open us up to public ridicule and mockery, and in some cases physical danger.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof honestly appraised and accurately described the anti-Christian sentiment overtaking U.S. cultural elites today when he wrote, “Today among urban Americans and Europeans, ‘evangelical Christian’ is sometimes a synonym for ‘rube.’ In liberal circles evangelicals constitute one of the few groups that it is safe to mock openly.” Separately, a 2007 survey of American college professors conducted by a sociologist found that more than half of these professors articulated openly “negative feelings” for evangelical Christians. We for sure are not in Kansas anymore!
This being the case, I want to remind us that hatred towards God’s people and the Gospel is to be expected. Hostility and harassment may be a new reality for Christians in North America, but it is not a new reality for many Christians around the world or throughout history. In speaking to His disciples in the Upper Room Discourse, the Lord Jesus taught His followers that as sure as day follows night, a world at war with God will hate, persecute, ostracize and even kill God’s people (John 15:18-25; 1 John 3:13). They will hate Christians: (1) because they hated Christ and the servant is not greater than the master (v. 20); (2) because we no longer belong to the world’s system (v. 19); (3) because of their benign ignorance of God’s ways and will (v. 21); and (4) because Christ’s light in us exposes their darkness and they hate us for it as they did Him (vv. 22-24).
By way of application, Jesus’ warning reminds us that no amount of public relations, winsomeness, or love on our part is going to rescue the Christians and the Church from the world’s ire. Let us be clear that the presence of persecution is no indication that the Church has failed to engage the world properly or lovingly. The Church according to Christ will be hated without cause and justification (John 15:25). As A. W. Tozer said, “To be right with God has often meant to be in trouble with men.” This new reality therefore demands from us a new love for Christ and a new love for those who hate Christ in us!