Protect Me From Your Followers
“He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. Anyone … who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward.”
Matthew 10:40 (NIV UK)
In the last two decades, I and the denomination I am privileged to lead have made sweeping changes in our beliefs and practices. Our church had been bound in legalism, and we needed to embrace the gospel of grace. I realised that not everyone could accept these changes, and that some would strongly resent them.
What was unexpected was the level of hate directed at me personally. People claiming to be Christians didn’t extend much Christianity. Some actually wrote to tell me that they were praying for my quick death. Others let me know they wanted to be involved in my execution. It gave a deeper understanding of Jesus’ statement that there would be some who would want to kill you, thinking they were offering service to God (John 16:2).
I tried not to let this outpouring of hate affect me, but of course it did. How could it not? Words hurt, especially if they come from those who have been friends and colleagues.
As the years have passed, however, the continuing angry words and hate mail don’t affect me as they did at first. It’s not that I have grown tougher, calloused or indifferent to personal attacks, but I see that these people are struggling with their own feelings of inadequacy, guilt and worry. This is the effect that legalism has on us. The strict keeping of the law becomes a security blanket, although an inadequate one, rooted as it is in fear.
When we are confronted with the real security of the gospel of grace, some joyfully cast away the old blanket, but others hold on to it desperately and wrap themselves in it even more tightly. They regard anyone who wants to take it away as an enemy. That is why the Pharisees and other religious leaders of Jesus’ time saw him as a threat to their security and desperately wanted him destroyed.
Jesus didn’t hate the Pharisees. He loved them and wanted to help them, recognising that they were their own worst enemies. It’s the same today, although now the threats and hatred come from those who claim to be followers of Jesus.
The Bible tells us that “there is no fear in love.” On the contrary, “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). But, it seems that perfect fear casts out love! When I remember this, personal attacks don’t bother me so much. I can love those who hate me, because Jesus loves them, even though they are not fully aware of the dynamics of his love. It helps me cut them some slack.
Merciful Father, we ask your mercy on those still struggling with feelings contrary to the love for others that you commanded us through your Son. Humbly we ask, bless them, Father, with the gift of repentance and revision you have given us. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Study by Joseph Tkach
About the Author:
Joseph Tkach is the President of Grace Communion International (the Denominational name of The Worldwide Church of God UK), and resides in California, USA. You are welcome to attend one of our local Church congregations located throughout the UK and Ireland. For details of your nearest local congregation, check on our website, www.wcg.org.uk under the ‘Churches’ tab, or ring +44 (0)1858 437099.