Christians Will Be Unpopular

From J. Vernon McGee’s Through the Bible, commenting on John 15:18-19:

Notice what will happen if you are a child of God.  The world will hate you.  I believe that a Christian’s popularity can be an indication of how he is representing Christ in the world.  I do not believe a Christian can be popular in the world.  No Christian has any right to be more popular than Jesus was.  Beware of a compromising position in order to be popular.  The world will not love a real child of God.  The world will love you if you are of the world.  You don’t have to act oddly or be super-pious.  The world will hate you if you are a child of God.  This is difficult, especially for young people who want so much to be popular.  Let’s tell our young people what the Lord says.  They are not going to be popular with the world if they are the children of God. (Vol. IV, p. 470)

Although he put this down about four decades ago, this is truer now than then.  The 1970’s was an exciting time to be a Christian, but it wasn’t always an easy one.  Many of the same opposing agendas we see today–to say nothing of the general temptations–are still out there.  Many of the people who blew us off then are in positions of power and influence today.

Unfortunately Evangelical Christianity went through a period of collective amnesia in the 1980’s, that amnesia reinforced by prosperity teaching, which has become very pervasive in the church.  To achieve material prosperity in the degree that its proponents claim–and I take their claims at face value–requires a broad degree of the popularity that Our Lord didn’t promise us.  To tell people unremittingly that they will receive a golden rain from heaven and then hit the wall with the world around them will result in what I like to call a “cognitive dissonance” moment, which is never pleasant.

The other problem is that it’s really harder to go “against the tide” now than then.  The ersatz individualism of the 1960’s has morphed into the well-disguised groupthink we have now.  It’s harder for a young person to buck the trends now than it was when McGee made his commentary.  The church as a community needs to back its young people in that endeavour rather than to always try to rack up numbers with “lowest common denominator” programs.

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