It was tough to pass up Ezekiel's dry bones this morning, but I got caught up in the Gospel reading...though probably not where you think. Coming off of Maundy Thursday last week, Jesus' command to love one another and his explanation of what that looks like are still fresh in our minds. My imagination got stuck in the second half of this passage, though, in Jesus' reminder about the world and its hatred.
“If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you.
-- John 15.18-19 CSB
This is a tough message for the church.
The contemporary church in America doesn't like this message. She desperately needs to be liked. She craves acceptance at all costs. She isn't afraid to compromise her identity to be popular (we call it 'relevance' in church-speak).
We all know people that act the same way. We grew up with them in school. We see them on social media. We work and live with them. You know the type and could probably name a few names right off the top of your head without even thinking too hard.
The ironic thing is, the people we know that act like this annoy us, frustrate us, and get our sympathy because we find their co-dependence and obsession over image a bit pathetic. But when we apply these same traits to the church, suddenly we can't spend enough dollars, hours, and other resources jumping on the obsessive bandwagon of 'relevance' in the name of growing Christ's Kingdom. The trouble is, he has specifically told us it won't work.
Am I the only one that sees the irony in this?
To the church, be who you are--the Christ-centered, Word and Sacrament-focused place of absolution, healing, grace, and beacon of counter-culture. The world isn't going to like you for calling it out for its wickedness, selfishness, and depravity--and that's OK. Jesus doesn't call us to be the BFF of the world with the most likes and followers on Instagram. He calls to be salt and light, beautiful messengers of his mercy and good will.
This is our calling. This is our identity. This who we are.
And by his grace, we are free to be exactly that!