“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” –John 15:18–19
These were some of the last words Christ spoke to his disciples before he was arrested and put to death. Christ is the perfect example of humility: He did no wrong yet was hated to the point of death on a cross; these words were important both for Christ to relay and for the disciples to remember as they continued on without their Teacher and friend.
Honestly, growing up these words seemed a bit, well, dramatic, to me. In high school, I was in the running to be voted “Friendliest” in our graduating class of nearly 500. I love going to social events, and I never fail to get the phone number of a new friend. I have also been a bridesmaid in over a dozen weddings. I love people; people love me. So, the idea of someone hating me just for being a Christian seemed ridiculous. Until it happened.
I was a waitress at a restaurant and was very bold about my faith in God from the very beginning. One time, my boss said, “Wow, Andrea, you seem even happier than usual! What gives?” And I told her, “I just had a wonderful time reading Hebrews 10 in my Bible and listening to praise music this morning, and it was just what I needed!”
Conversations like these were every day, run-of-the-mill between me and colleagues. In fact, even though I only worked with two other Christians, for the most part, everyone who wasn’t a believer was really respectful. It was so sweet, they would even stop inappropriate conversations for me and apologize when they used curse words. Their actions made me want to act with more humility and serve them more. It was great – since I am by nature a selfish person. God was using this job to shape my heart to be more Christ like!
This was all before “Will.” Will was really going to shape my heart in ways I would not have believed. Will was a very flamboyant gay man and almost from the very moment he started, he seemed to hate me. I was friendly to him and helped him, but he spurned me and my offers to help. Finally, one shift, he turns to me in the kitchen, in an angry tone, and asks, “So, you’re a Christian, right?” Smiling, I say, “Yeah, I love God, if that’s what you mean.” And then he completely takes me by surprise when he says, “Well, in case you don’t know, I am gay, so, do you believe that I am going to hell?” Talk about a jaw dropping experience!
Here was hatred for me, just for being a Christian – a flat-out old-Western style draw of heaven and hell; being called out right there in the kitchen! Honestly, all thoughts of humility were gone from my head.
Thank God, at that moment, the manager asked both of us to run food, and I immediately started praying for wisdom and humility. I didn’t know exactly what Will’s intention was, but I knew his demeanor was confrontational. He seemed to hate God and me. If it were the Wild West, he would have been the “bad guy,” and I would have been on the other side, had on my hip, gun at the ready, standing my ground for the Lord. But what Will didn’t know is found in God’s word, in James 1:5, which promises:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives liberally to all and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
I prayed non-stop during the rest of the shift for wisdom and for God to guide the shift as He saw fit. Later, God gave me an opportunity to use that wisdom, and my dealings with people have not been the same since. My human answer was to tell him, yes, of course you are going to hell, you are a sinner, you are purposefully sinning, and let me share the Scriptures that prove it.
But God’s love and grace shared different wisdom with Will that day.
At one point, when we were eating at the end of the shift, it ended up being just him and me sitting alone at the table. I asked him if he still wanted to know that answer to the question he asked me earlier in the kitchen. He looked up at me, with a sarcastic look, and said, “Of course.”
I then told him, “I don’t know if you are going to hell or not. All I know is what the Bible tells me and that is: we all sin and fall short the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Sure, I believe homosexuality is a sin, but I also know that me being prideful and selfish is a sin, as well. And my personal sin list goes on and on, trust me. The beauty is that Christ died for all sinners, no matter the sin. Since I believe that and have asked Christ to become Lord of my life, I spend my days trying to know Him better and be more like Him. I believe that’s what keeps me from going to hell. As for you, I don’t know. That is up to you in the end. I’m not your judge, nor would I want to be. I’m just happy to work with you and hopefully be friends.”
He literally stared and had nothing to say.
So, to lighten to mood, I grabbed a fry off his plate and ate it. Then I said, “Oh, and friends eat each other’s fries.” He just laughed, and we started talking about our shift. He even confided in me later that his mother was a Christian and told him that he was going to hell for being gay and made him feel guilty about many other things, even hitting him occasionally.
Later, as we become friends, he would even ask me to pray for him, saying that he believed God listened to me.
I would tell him God would listen to him too, anytime, if he just talked to Him. Will eventually was fired from the job from nearly overdosing in the bathroom one night. I wasn’t there, and I wish I could have been, but I still pray for him. Even though he hated Christ in me, I was able to see how Christ’s wisdom started to melt down some of that hatred. When we rely on Christ in us, and humble ourselves, we can see miraculous things happen.
When we see that the message of the Gospel is truly Good News and that it is, at its most simple form, the most precious gift we have to share, we are equipped with a deep love to handle hatred and confrontational situations.
When we take the time act with humility, and to open our eyes and hearts with the eyes and heart of Christ, we begin to see people are so much more than just words. As C.S. Lewis said, “I’ve never met a mere mortal.” We are all beings with eternity in us (Ecclesiastes 3:11). When we see people that way, and they hate the Holy Spirit in us, we have to trust and believe that God’s Word is true and watch as He does the work in and around us.
When was the last time you were in a confrontational situation about your faith?
Did you pray for wisdom or rely on your own strength?
How did your situation turn out?
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