(Part 30)

April 4, 2014

Today’s readings:
Wisdom 2:1-22
Psalm 34:17-23
John 7:1-30

We are called to be holy, to be witnesses, and to go on mission. If we respond to this call seriously, we can expect to be oppressed and persecuted.

To be holy is to be set apart. For one set apart, “his life is not like that of others, and different are his ways.” (Wis 2:15). He is in the world but is not of it. He lives counter-culturally. Such ways invite opposition and persecution. “Let us lie in wait for the righteous one, because he is annoying to us” (Wis 2:12a). Why is he annoying to them? Because “he opposes our actions, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training.” (Wis 2:12b). His actions are in direct contrast and opposition to theirs, his righteousness is a reproach to their transgressions, and his ways lay a charge to their violations of God’s laws. “To us he is the censure of our thoughts” (Wis 2:14a). He brings judgment upon them. “He judges us debased” (Wis 2:16a).

Now it is the same thing for a witness. Jesus says, “The world …. hates me, because I testify to it that its works are evil.” (Jn 7:7). To be a witness to Christ, to testify to what is right in the Lord, is to invite enmity.

Further, one sent on mission can expect the same. Jesus says of God, “‘I am from him, and he sent me.’ So they tried to arrest him” (Jn 7:29-30a). And we know what they ultimately did to Jesus. “With violence and torture let us put him to the test …. Let us condemn him to a shameful death” (Wis 2:19a,20a).

Why is such the case? Why is such the reaction and action of the world? It is the sinful evil life that keeps people from the truth and beauty of God’s ways, “for their wickedness blinded them, and they did not know the hidden counsels of God” (Wis 2:21b-22a). They could not see beyond the pleasures of the present. They did not see the need for a life of holiness, as they did not “count on a recompense for holiness” (Wis 2:22b). They did not look to life hereafter, as they could not “discern the innocent souls’ reward.” (Wis 2:22c).

What they looked to was the world’s wisdom. In this they are “not thinking rightly” (Wis 2:1a). Two common examples of worldly wisdom are the following:

  • Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die. “For our lifetime is the passing of a shadow; and our dying cannot be deferred …. Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that are here” (Wis 2:5a,6a). This attitude leads to wanton extravagance. “Let us haveour fill of costly wine and perfumes, …. Let no meadow be free from our wantonness” (Wis 2:7a,9a).
  • Might is right. “But let our strength be our norm of righteousness” (Wis 2:11a).

The Bible pronounces judgment. “These were their thoughts, but they erred” (Wis 2:21a).

Such erroneous attitudes lead to oppression of those who are righteous and those who are poor. Such is the case with many wealthy individuals and western nations today. They oppress the righteous because the latter’s ways bring judgment on their wanton living, and they oppress the poor by their unjust use of the world’s wealth. “Let us oppress the righteous poor” (Wis 2:10a).

Power disdains weakness, as those with power claim that “weakness proves itself useless.” (Wis 2:11b). Wealth disdains poverty. Sinfulness disdains righteousness.

So those who strive for holiness and to witness by such holiness to an unrighteous world need to do mission–to share Christ so that the world would meet Christ, and start to live Christ. They need to engage the world, to meet it headlong. When they do, they can expect oppression and persecution to intensify even more. But because they are sent by God, they can be bold and confident. They know that “the Lord’s face is against evildoers” (Ps 34:17a). They can always cry out to Him for help. “The righteous cry out, the Lord hears and he rescues them from all their afflictions.” (Ps 34:18). Wow! That is quite an assurance! “Many are the troubles of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” (Ps 34:20).

Those who oppress us do not have a chance, as “those who hate the righteous are condemned” (Ps 34:22b). We have God on our side. He ensures a wonderful end for us. “The Lord is the redeemer of the souls of his servants; and none are condemned who take refuge in him.” (Ps 34:23).

Thus are we empowered to witness. We are holy witnesses out on mission. We are to be saints, martyrs and warriors.

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