The anti-God bumper stickers covering the car seized the attention of a university professor. As a former atheist himself, the professor thought perhaps the owner wanted to make believers angry. “The anger helps the atheist to justify his atheism,” he explained. Then he warned, “All too often, the atheist gets exactly what he is looking for.”
In recalling his own journey to faith, this professor noted the concern of a Christian friend who invited him to consider the truth of Christ. His friend’s “sense of urgency was conveyed without a trace of anger.” He never forgot the genuine respect and grace he received that day.
Believers in Jesus often take offense when others reject Him. But how does He feel about that rejection? Jesus constantly faced threats and hatred, yet He never took doubt about His deity personally. Once, when a village refused Him hospitality, James and John wanted instant retaliation. “Lord,” they asked, “do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” (Luke 9:54). Jesus didn’t want that, and He “turned and rebuked them” (v. 55). After all, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17).
It may surprise us to consider that God doesn’t need us to defend Him. He wants us to represent Him! That takes time, work, restraint, and love.
Lord, when we are confronted with hate, help us not to be haters but to respond as Your Son did: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
The best way to defend Jesus is to live like Him.
Luke 9:51 says, “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” Christ was deliberately going to Jerusalem to face even more opposition because of His commitment to die on the cross for our redemption. When James and John rightly perceived opposition to their Master, they wrongly responded with an attitude of vindictive punishment. Most likely they were thinking of Elijah calling down fire from heaven (2 Kings 1:10–12) and the fire that fell in judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19). Yet they missed the point that Jesus’s truth claims are submitted for human consideration without coercion or duress.
As one theologian wisely said: “God is a Gentleman and will not violate our own free will.” The time of judgment that is most certainly coming has its own set time in God’s calendar. Before it arrives, each human being who hears the gospel has the freedom to believe it or reject it. God is “patient with [us],” the apostle Peter wrote, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
How might you show grace and faithfulness in letting your gospel light shine today regardless of the response?