Shining Like Stars: Counting the Cost
I have to confess something – I want you to like me. I want to publish the truth to accolades and atta-girls, I want my writing to be popular and shared for its insight and beauty.
Instead, this week, I spoke the truth and was rewarded with the most crushing experience of my professional life. I’ve always lauded the power of publishing – as a freshman journalism student I saw my future career as a noble one, one that sought after truth and set captives free. But when I wrote about such truth – about a God who hates evil, an evil that seeks to devour and destroy, I was harshly judged, mocked, and ridiculed to the breaking point.
Philippians 2:12-17 says: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life–in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.”
When I first referenced this verse several months ago, I had experienced a few run-ins with some angry commenters and disgruntled Facebook users. I knew that sharing truth and grace online could be dangerous, but this week, I’ve gotten a new perspective. I’ve seen more hate mail this week than ever before, because I called evil by its name in a recent post on a worldwide blog network.
On top of the indignant and angry feedback, a group of bloggers and readers called for my removal from the network. I’ve been amazed at the unleashing of such hearty hatred toward the truth. As a wise person recently told me, it’s a first-hand look at what happens when fear and anger boil over, leading to a hatred at God and at me for endeavoring to represent Him – “crooked and depraved generation”, indeed.
But am I willing to shine despite it? I have been so mournful over this spite and cruelty from my fellow man, even people whom I’ve never met and probably never will. With every reader I lose or angry comment I receive, I risk losing my nerve. Sometimes it doesn’t feel worth it to be vulnerable, to write something really true about my Lord, myself or my tightly-held beliefs. After all, do I really have to open myself up to ridicule in order to represent my Lord and my faith with honesty? Perhaps I can go back to that whole “lifestyle evangelism” thing and forget about saying explicitly what I believe.
But I’m reminded that Jesus promised us that this would happen. He guaranteed that our faithfulness and our eagerness to bring His Good News would lead to hatred, persecution and pain. Matthew 10:22-24 says: “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master.”
If the Master, Jesus, was hated, betrayed and mocked for His teachings, can I expect any less? My trials with online meanies look brief and small in comparison to what he endured and what Christians around the world go through daily in order to represent Him well.
So I guess I’m left with a soul-searching question at the end of all this: my series here has been titled “Shining like Stars Online” and that sounds like a beautiful thing to do – to share the love and joy of Jesus with a dark and hurting online world. But as I wrap this up, I realize: what if the dark and hurting online world turns upon the messenger as quickly and ferociously as it does the Savior Himself? What do I do then, and how do I react?
I answer with shaking hands and a fearful heart. I want to be liked, but I know that I must be faithful, even through my trepidation. So I will continue in the calling and the voice that He has given me. I will represent my Lord with grace and I will not shrink back from the truth. My “crooked and depraved” generation needs Him, and who am I to deny them a glimpse at Jesus?
I pray that you’ll join me in shining like stars, no matter the cost.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me,
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God.
Check out an earlier post in this series here