Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter

"If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you, 'No slave is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me."

There are innumerable ways in which believers and nonbelievers are alike. As fellow citizens of a country, as coworkers and neighbors, speaking the same language, wearing similar clothing and eating the same food, they have much to agree about. They probably share much the same moral code: thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, honor your father and your mother, etc.

But the difference is shocking: nonbelievers "do not know the one who sent me." But, significantly, many suppose they do. Since the Father does not appear in human form; he never shows himself in any gathering; he never stops by to chat in anyone's house -- anyone can claim a relationship to him. Who am I to say you have never known the Lord?

Even when the nonbeliever's actions are hateful -- racist, violent, mean-spirited or downright selfish -- his claim to know the Lord and to act out of his faith cannot be challenged. He might even attend the same church for reasons impenetrable to the believing Christian.

This conundrum has caused troubled days and nights among thoughtful Christians. Martin Luther concluded there is an invisible church which will appear no sooner than Judgment Day. John Calvin suspected the true believer would be happier and more prosperous. (And so many people desperately want to look happier and more prosperous to their fellows.) After five hundred years of Reformation these solutions satisfy no one.

Jesus offers this reassurance to the believer, "If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first." Believers and non-believers can expect arbitrary violence in a world of winners and losers, but believers will prefer to lose. They will not volunteer to be victimized as in codependent behavior, but they will recognize there are diabolical forces at work in this world and they will want no part of their victory. They will not measure their achievements by success.

The believer ponders the victory of Christ only after contemplating his kenosis -- his poverty, abandonment, humiliation, suffering and ignominious death. Saint Francis of Assisi wanted nothing to do with success; he shuddered at the thought. His perfect joy was to suffer the cold of winter, the heat of summer, the torment of hunger, the poverty of homelessness and the contempt of the comfortable as Jesus suffered. He desired above all companionship with Jesus and he found it in failure.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.