Text: John 15:26-16:4
In the name of Jesus: Amen.
There are particular core needs that we all have as humans. We all need food, water, air, house, and home – physical needs. There are also emotional needs that we have as well, such as the need to feel safe and secure. But perhaps one of the most powerful core needs - that often goes unnoticed - is the need for approval from others. In other words, we want to be validated by others, for when others approve of us, we feel content. All is well in the world when other people give us a thumbs up. Having approval and validation gives a great inner peace.
But what happens when people do not approve of us? Well, quite frankly, our world can be turned upside down. Indeed, when people reject us, it can cause a great sense of pain and insecurity, even despair or possible depression. To make things worse, when we are rejected we begin to ask all sorts of questions of ourselves,
“Am I that wrong? Should I rethink my life? Should I change how I act? Perhaps I could listen to what others are saying, and do what they say to get approval. Or, should I not listen to others? Should I write them off as jerks?”
After much soul-searching, one of two things happens though. We either write the nay-sayers off as jerks, so that their opinions do not matter to us, or we seek out people that will validate us. Many times we go to places, like a church, for validation.
Dear friends, churches are many times full of people who have been beaten up by life – rejected by others. The church has a way of being a haven of acceptance for many individuals needing validation in life.
But I have some very bad news for you. If you are looking to the church to be a place of validation in the world, you are misguided. If you think being in the church will allow you to be free from the world’s rejection, scorn, and hatred, you are mistaken.
Consider our reading from the Gospel of John. In John’s Gospel, Jesus warned His disciples that they would not find acceptance, approval, and validation but persecution, hatred, and rejection from the world. Why? Because they were followers of Jesus. In other words, as Christians, you and I should not expect validation, acceptance, and approval from the world but hatred, rejection, and persecution. As a Christian you must not delude yourself but be ready for and face the scorn of the world. The world hates Christ, which means that it will hate you as Christians.
Now, we must keep in mind that there was a time in America when Christianity was accepted and revered. Decades ago, Churches were intentionally put at the center of the town. Pastors were well respected. The pews were generally full on Sundays. And so, being a part of the church not only gave you acceptance among other Christians but validation and credibility among society.
But my dear friends, this era of Christian acceptance in America has been fading away for quite some time. Furthermore, that era of Christian acceptance in the United States has been the exception and not the norm. That is to say; throughout the history of the Christian faith, millions upon millions of Christians have not been accepted, validated, or approved by the world. But instead, Christians have been imprisoned, tortured, and killed. Bluntly stated, persecution, rejection, and hatred towards Christians is the norm, not cheering, applause, and love.
And so, if you are in the church to be accepted socially and culturally by the world, you are severely misguided. If you find yourself being offended that the world does not treat Christians fairly, it is time to stop being so naïve and wise up to Jesus’ words. Jesus did not promise you and me a fair shake from the world. Jesus never promised that the ‘church’ and the ‘world’ would hold hands and take peaceful walks on the beach. In fact, as Christians, we should ‘expect’ the very opposite of special treatment from the world. As Christians, we should ‘expect’ to be mistreated from the world, for the world is blinded in unbelief. We should ‘expect’ to be ostracized from the table of the world. We should ‘expect’ bigotry and hatred against Christ and His church. And when we are mistreated, we mustn’t throw a temper tantrum and say,
“Woe is me; I am mistreated as a Christian! Why is this happening to me as a Christian? Why does the world ‘not’ validate me?”
But instead, dear friends, we should confess,
“Christ is right. His word has been fulfilled. The unbelieving world neither knows the Father nor the Son, which is why the world hates and rejects the church and Christians.”
Dear Baptized Saints, please pay special attention. Christ does not share this news with you to plunge you into despair. Also, He does not share the news of the world’s rejection of Christians so that you might develop ways to become like the world to get approval. In other words, the news that the world rejects and despises the church should not plunge you into hopeless despair where you shuffle your feet in the shadows of depression. And the news that the world rejects and despises the church should not make you seek out ways of trying to get validation from the world. Beware of trying to change the world’s hatred of Christianity. For example, too many churches and pastors play high school lunch-room games. You know what I’m talking about. Too many churches and pastors try to flatter the world with exaggerated displays of groveling to sit at the same lunch table as the world. Too many churches and pastors sell the church out when seeking favor and approval of the world.
No! The world may tolerate the church and even use it, but validate it? No, it cannot, for the world is spiritually blind – the world cannot see the glory of Christ-crucified for it does not have eyes to see. The world believes that it was righteous, putting the disciples out of the synagogues and killing them. And the world is blind when it murders God’s children thinking that it is doing a good deed.
And so, dear Baptized Saints, do not despair when the world hates you! Do not seek validation and approval from the world, as a way of overcoming the world’s rejection of you! In fact, hear the whole point that Jesus is essentially making in our Gospel reading in John – who cares what the world thinks!
Baptized Saints, it is true that there is an incredible desire to be validated and accepted by others. But mark this, as a Christian you will never be validated by the world, nor should you be. In fact, do not be offended if the world rejects you! Do not be alarmed if the world persecutes you! Pay no attention to the world, for your validation does not come from the world to begin with! Your validation, acceptance, and approval – as a Christian – does not come from mere mortal men but from Christ, who overcame the world!
And so, if the world rejects you, do not give it a second thought, for you are accepted in Christ.
If the world does not treat you fairly, do not be offended saying,
“I never saw that coming, what shall I do?”
No! Remember that justice has been accomplished in Christ for you. Vengeance belongs to the Lord; forgiveness belongs to you in Christ.
If the world does not let you sit at its lunch table, do not despair, for you feast at the heavenly table of our Lord in His Supper.
If the world persecutes you, mistreats you, and does not validate you; take comfort, for the world does not own you, control you, or have the final word over you.
Know this, the world rages against Christ and opposes the Gospel because it is blinded by darkness. Therefore, we can pray,
“God forgive them for they know not what they do.”
You, Baptized Saints, you are in this world – this vale of tears – but you are not of this world. You know who you belong to – Jesus. And Jesus is your truth, way, and life. Therefore, remain in God’s acceptance of you remembering the mighty water splashed on your head that snatched you from darkness to light.
Continually receive God’s approval of you through the forgiving words of Jesus poured into your ears in the Absolution – you are redeemed; you are mine!
Rest in Christ’s validation of you in receiving forgiveness in His true body and blood laid upon your tongue and into your bellies.
You have been given the Holy Spirit through the Word, and the Holy Spirit is comfort against the world’s terror; truth against the world’s falsehoods, and an Advocate for you from the assaults of the world’s tyranny.
Stand firm; rest in the Gospel in the midst of all that this world will throw at you. You have Christ; Christ has you. And Christ, has overcome the world.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
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