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Location: Horsham, Pennsylvania, United States

John is a PA/NJ Architect with his own practice in its 41st year working on a wide variety of projects. He works on churches, convenience stores, residences, and academies as well as industrial projects. He has helped in numerous property acquisitions and worked with real estate investors. Acutely interested in politics since a teenager with many articles published over the last 55 years, he served as a guest on a Talk Radio show discussing race relations and on "It's Your Call" TV show with Lynn Doyle dealing with the subject of interethnic marriage. John is a "Tentmaking Evangelist" (Architect). An Evangelist with the Anchor Bay Evangelistic Association (non-denominational). Co-Founder of Kingdom Gospel Ministries, a ministry now in its 35th year with a mission to reconcile people of different racial, ethnic, and economic situations, and the producer of three weekly radio programs - a Sunday morning verse-by-verse Bible Study on Radio Delaware Valley, a weekly message from current events in California, and a weekly radio drama on the Wilkins Radio network. He also has archived many, many radio programs and written articles on the Internet.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

OVERCOMING HOSTILITY

We are living in a day of great hostility to the Lord and all things decent. Grudging respect and deference by the unbeliever has been replaced by disdain, open scorn, and heavy-handed infringement of rights. While we can attribute this to the work of the devil, much of it could not occur without the church making itself an inviting target.

 

The Word says that we should expect to suffer for righteousness sake, but if we suffer for doing wrong, there is no reward in that.

 

Hostility comes early into the life of a Christian. I became a Christian at five, and believe me, you didn't even have to witness before the kids knew you were different. A clean mind and mouth as well as a peaceable spirit that God had given kids like me were dead giveaways and engendered hostility.

 

Those of you who became Christians later in life probably could share experiences relevant to your age level. Whether at High School, College, the military, work, or club, Christians stand out. We have learned to cope, however, and understand that a servant is not greater than his Lord, and since Jesus suffered, we will suffer. Likewise, we will share in his victory and his reward!

 

What is harder to deal with, however, is the hostility WITHIN the Body of Christ. Hostility has inhibited so much growth in the Body of Christ and has limited our effectiveness to the world.

 

Hostility did not start in the church but migrated there from the world.  In the beginning, it was not so. Man was at peace with God and the environment, and the only hostility that existed on earth was between the serpent and God. There is so much of a contrast between Paradise and our current fallen world, where men are hostile to each other as well as to the Lord God Almighty. One has only to listen to some of the hostile conversations being held, to read the hostile press articles be written, and to be a captive audience to the hostile “music” being played to know that a lot of people are very mad at the world. While some are content to express their hostility in these ways, other engage in direct frontal assault behavior that damages either others or themselves.  

 

While the most extreme forms of hostility would seemingly be found only in the world, many churches are full of hostility, sometimes among the leaders, other times between pastor and congregation or among the members of the congregation itself. Various behaviors are indicators of hostility — lack of proper respect, questioning all decisions, insulting the brethren, ignoring people not part of some sub-group, being contentious at business meetings, etc. How can we deal with the hostility that is so prevalent today? Let’s look at examples of hostility in the Bible, and how God dealt with it.

 

Joseph encountered great hostility from his brothers. Joseph was greatly favored by God and was gifted early in life. A father who recognized this and was none-too-wise in handling the situation exacerbated the problem. The brothers wanted everyone to be at their level. Just as occurs with Christian young men and women today, there is extreme pressure to conform and not to be sold out to God. This is true in the church as well as in the world. While we expect the world to be hostile to us, since they were hostile also to our Lord, it is harder to understand the hostility that occurs in the church when someone tries to move onward and upward with the Lord. People who cannot or will not live the way a righteous man does are often jealous, although they outwardly reject his life example. This jealousy and envy led to treachery and what seemed like a hopeless situation. Joseph’s response turned to forgiveness and helpfulness, and he did not take retribution on his brothers.

 

Moses encountered great hostility from his own when he killed the Egyptian. Then Pharaoh was hostile to him, and then all the children in the wilderness were hostile to Moses when things didn’t go their way.  Moses never returned this hostility, for he was the meekest man on earth, and through faith had such patience that he believed in the people when all indicators were predicting their failure. God offered to destroy the people and raise up a new people through Moses, but Moses defended the Israelites. This must have had considerable attraction, since men in those days commanded their families after them. Moses could well have formed the people in such a way that they followed the Lord, and he would have had fewer problems. However, Moses was a great leader because he loved the people, and he went to God on their behalf even when their behaviors were diametrically opposed to what God was asking for.

 

Even though God’s men were patient, events happened that punished the hostility, whether famine or other difficulties. Of course, there are other examples where God used his servants to punish hostility immediately.  One such case occurred when Elisha received hostility by being jeered by a group of young people, being called “baldhead” and laughed at. He responded by calling down a curse and two bears came and mauled forty-two of the youths. God does not take hostility lightly. Prophets major and minor received hostile receptions from kings and the people who didn’t want to change. They lived in difficult conditions and were in constant danger for their lives. The hostility of people toward God was channeled in concentrated measure against those servants of the Lord who were faithful.

 

Jesus himself encountered unbelievable hostility for telling the truth, just as the prophets of old had experienced. The scribes, Pharisees, and teachers of the law were the worst offenders, with the ordinary people being more receptive. The hostility came also from spiritual forces who made full frontal assault on the Lord. When the time came for him to offer up his life as a ransom for many, those who had a different scenario mocked and showed demented hostility toward the Lord. Once a person becomes hostile, there is practically no way to contain it, and it generally finds a place of expression. Hostility is not rational, and the more truth that is spoken, the wilder it can get.

 

Stephen spoke as an angel and was so hostilely opposed by Saul and other Jews who could not bear to hear the truth that he was stoned.  After his conversion, Paul received hostile receptions in many cities he went to, from idol-makers and sorcerers as well as from legalists and proud workers who compromised the truth. Timothy was constantly urged to be strong by Paul, due to the great hostility that was in the false teachers. God gave Timothy rules for choosing men to teach and to minister in the church.

 

God does not generally ignore hostility; rather he deals with it by making corrections or bringing destruction when necessary. However, his timing is not always our timing, so sometimes the righteous suffer during times of hostility until God says enough. God seems to allow men to go beyond any reason in order that they condemn themselves.

 

It would nice to say that if we simply do right and live circumspectly, that we would not incur hostility. If the Lord greatly blesses us, and we learned from Joseph not to rub it in, would we escape the difficult times he had to suffer? Perhaps not. Some other occasion would have arisen since he was righteous, and his brothers were not. Joseph is a type of Christ, and they hated Christ without a cause. Moses repented and heard continually from the Lord, and had the evidence to prove it, yet the Israelites despised the word of the Lord through Moses. The life of Christ and of Christians throughout time indicate that when we do right, the world is generally hostile to us. There will be times of acceptance, but we must realize that when we are an oracle of God, we will suffer persecution — we are not greater than the Master.

 

While many can understand the hostility and persecution from the world, since we have the Spirit of Christ and the world does not, most have a harder time understanding why there is so much hostility and persecution in the church. It is sad, but we can be persecuted by the church for the very same positions that infuriate the world. While we may not be stoned or beaten physically, the scars may in fact be worse. People are hostile if we are too demanding or if we set too high a goal. There is in life a series of thresholds, much like a track with progressively higher hurdles to leap. Once people cross a hurdle and decide not to jump the next, there is severe peer pressure on those who attempt it.   

 

Let’s go into this a bit further. The first hurdle is acknowledging there is a God. Many people jump this relatively low hurdle, because the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows his handiwork. Only a fool would say there is no God, but the earth has a considerable population of fools! So, we take that fairly large group who have stepped over that first hurdle.  

 

Next is a belief that we are sinners, and something must be done about that. This is a tricky one, since a rational look at ourselves will reveal sin and shortcomings, but that look can cause us to go many different ways. Most get sidetracked here, because they find some way to deal with these shortcomings without leaping over the next hurdle, which is belief in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, as their Savior from sin and their Lord for all eternity. That hurdle requires faith, which is a gift of God, and it cannot be jumped over by the intellect. Most men have chosen so far to stay with their intellect and invent systems of sublimation of the sin, such as Yoga, meditation, or positive thinking, or of pagan ways of dealing with sin, whether self-abuse, asceticism, penance, or strange sacrifice.

 

Other hurdles of faith remain where the hurdles are missed through either lack of faith or misguided faith: Baptism in Water, which Christ has commanded us to follow him in, is either trivialized or made a requirement of salvation;  Baptism in the Holy Spirit, which God has commanded us to follow him in, is either dismissed as an irrelevancy or built up as an icon of division; Sonship teaching has either been persecuted by the church, even those who are "Spirit-filled", or else resulted in men walking around claiming they are perfect or acting “super-spiritual”, not taking communion or engaging in other commands of the Lord because they think they have transcended into another state. However, there are people who have overcome these hurdles of faith successfully — they have been baptized in water and had their hearts circumcised; they have been baptized in the Holy Spirit by Jesus, and live lives of power, joy, and authority energized by God himself; they have accepted the clear teaching on Sonship in the scriptures, and desire to be like Jesus. They do not have illusions about being perfect yet, but they do not excuse sin in their lives, and they believe it is possible to be holy as the Lord their God is holy.

 

We must soar like eagles over the barnyard. When we fly with the Lord, we will rise above the mayhem below. Many visionary men of God have been dismissed with hostility by church organizations because people have a way of resisting the truth. Yet they have flown with the Lord and have achieved great victory in him. How do we do it? How do we overcome hostility in our lives?

 

The answer is love. It sounds simple, but there is no other way. Love of God and love for people. Let’s go back to some of our examples:  Joseph loved his brothers and wept over them. He made sure they had repented, but his final response was one of love. Moses countered the hostility of the people with intercession to save their lives. Jesus loved even those who tormented and killed him. Stephen forgave his murderers.

 

We must love. We must cease from hostility ourselves. We must be unified with the entire Body of Christ, since Jesus himself shed his blood to be our peace and to break down all walls of hostility between people. Ephesians 2 details this, with the intent of Christ being that there be ONE new man — not two or three!  Reconciled and united people are the building blocks for the household of God that is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. It is this household that is the habitation of God by his Holy Spirit.  

 

I recognize that demographics can sometimes be limiting, but when we INSIST on different bodies and different households — when we set out to form or try to maintain a White church or a Black church or a Jewish church, or a Hispanic Church, or churches with even more finely divided denominations, or churches of homogenous economic or social standing, hostility is inevitable. Even if not verbalized, it exists in the heart. This hostility is not only directed against members of the Body, it is also directed against the Lord who made the commandment and the edict for unity in the first place. We cannot overcome hostility aside from the plan of God, and it is only by resting in God that we can overcome the hostility that is sent against us or that may come from within us.  

 

In conclusion, it is necessary to overcome hostility. Hostility weakens and kills the brethren and grieves the Holy Spirit. We overcome by the blood of the lamb as we walk in the light as he is in the light, and follow the commands given to us in his Holy Word. Let’s pray and ask our Father to deliver us from hostility: 

 

“Jesus, we thank you that you delivered us from sin, and that we received the gift of faith so that we were able to lay aside the hostility we had toward you. We thank you for our precious salvation. Now Lord, enable us to live at peace with the brethren, and to not be hostile to the demands you make as we have come to better understand your precious word. Cause us to receive your love, and come into complete unity with your purposes, that we would understand the will of the Father as you did, and act accordingly with our brothers and sisters. Thank you for your Word. Enable us to obey it today.  Amen.”