This is Day Twenty-Nine of Christ Church Manchester’s lent devotionals, where we are breaking down the book of John. Written by Lia Williams.
John 15: 18 – 27:
When we choose Jesus we are recognised as one of His own; whether we acknowledge it or not, there is a distinct mark placed upon us, like a seal upon our forehead. We stand out. After all, how can light truly be hidden? Our motives, actions, and place of decision transform. Suddenly what once seemed clean appears dirty to us. Everything changes. Nonetheless, too often, as we potter about our lives we appear to fail to realise that we have been called out, chosen, set apart (1 Peter 2:9, Hebrews 10:10).
Yet here, Jesus provokes the realisation that being His disciples induces a profound change to our lives and the reaction of others towards us. We can no longer hide amongst the dead but are called to be alive. Those around us will respond to us the same way they respond to Jesus. We are promised hatred and persecution, of which regrettably we so often lack experience. But why is that? Perhaps because we are too busy marring ourselves with the world, trying to cover up our holiness for the acceptance of our peers, bosses, co-workers, family, friends and even to the strangers we forsake on the street.
But in doing so we deprive ourselves the same standing as Christ; these promises are made in the contrast that this is the treatment of Christ. By allowing fear to dominate and cloud our love of Jesus, which is only ever a response to His love for us, we deny the opportunity to work and walk alongside our blessed King. We have been called to far more than church on Sundays and shy smiles; you and I were called to even greater things than Christ Himself (John 14:12-14)!
Furthermore, how can men respond with brutality or rejection or venomous threats towards Christ and so to us, in light of Him? For Jesus exposes the secret and hidden motives of men; He unveils the uncrossable drop between the perfection and holiness of God and man. His righteousness highlights our unrighteousness, His light shines into our darkness, His very presence convicts the depths of a man’s heart. And by doing so, no man can walk away unchanged or without the revelation of the condition of his own soul; moving the heart towards repentance or bitter hatred towards that which man cannot achieve alone.
This is what we have been welcomed into – the ministry of reconciliation, that of bringing men and women back to God, being Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). That even our very presence carries the conviction of Christ among the people. Persecution and hatred, then, should be deemed an honour, carrying the death of Christ in our very being (2 Corinthians 4:10) instead of something to be shunned.
For, if it is stirred by goodness, it unveils that we are indeed the children of God carrying the very same presence that led Jesus to the cross. Oh for the glory of God! It is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4) not condemnation or judgement or any other thing. Therefore persecution and hatred for proclaiming the gospel should only be rejoiced in, as a result of goodness and kindness, motivated overwhelmingly by love (1 Peter 2:20).
But alongside persecution and hatred, Jesus also speaks of those who will be obedient, as they would be obedient to Christ. And how much more does that outweigh suffering? That our suffering would not be fruitless but instead produce a bountiful harvest restoring children to their Father in heaven? After the pain of birth, a child is born, and joy comes. How much more must the joy of seeing one born again be (John 3:1-21)? The entitlement of seeing the old disperse and the new come into being, a man made into a new creation, into the very same man he was always made to be. The pain and suffering lost in the sight of what has come because of it.
Is this not what life is all about? To see the love of Jesus pour into the hearts of all those around us? Even if they reject the message we bear witness to? Will it not all be of worth in the end? Confidently stood before our Daddy, rejoicing and dancing on our sufferings, as familiar faces stand out amongst the crowds? The dead made alive for heaven’s call. ‘For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.’ (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Jesus is call is clear at the end of this extract: to testify. The very same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is within us, and in full confidence of this, we are released into testifying that Jesus lives. Jesus has called us as a living testimony that He grants the way to the Father. Our place in that is simple: to live it out; to be Jesus, to show Jesus, to reveal Jesus, to demonstrate Jesus, to speak Jesus, to unveil Jesus’ touch. How? Put simply, to love as He has loved us (1 John 4:19). Be the truth no matter the consequences.
‘Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God’. (Ephesians 5:1-2)
Written by:Andy Dowdeswell