My wife and I were recently watching a western TV series that featured a gang of outlaws that rustled cattle, stole horses and cheated at cards. They were painted in a sympathetic light as men that had been given a raw deal in life. They had been raised in a rough environment, received little love and forced to fend for themselves most of their lives. One of them, when questioned about his involvement in such things, responded, “Yeah, but I didn’t do nothing criminal. Those things didn’t hurt nobody.”
When left to themselves, that’s what people do. They use their circumstances to rationalize, minimize and justify actions that unequivocally violate God’s law. However, when a representative of truth enters the picture all the excuses melt away.
Aaron was the first high priest of Israel and, while Moses was away, superintended the creation of the golden calf. He erected it and commanded the people to worship it. When Moses returned he asked Aaron what he was doing. Aaron rationalized his sin by shifting the blame to the people saying, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil” (Ex. 32:22). God’s law seemed negotiable until His representative, Moses, entered the scene.
Later, King Saul sinfully offered a sacrifice prior to engaging in a battle. When God’s truthteller, the prophet Samuel, arrived he said, “What have you done?” (1 Sam. 13:11). Saul went on to minimize his misdeed by blaming it on the people and on Samuel’s late arrival. Again, his sin was exposed as soon as God’s representative, Samuel, arrived.
In Genesis, after eating the forbidden fruit, God, Himself, questioned Eve, “’What is this you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’” (Gen. 3:13). Once again, Eve justified her decision by pointing to her circumstances and again her sin was made evident by the presence of the Truth, Yahweh.
In the cases of Aaron, Saul and Eve, their rationalized, minimized and justified sins took place when they believed that God or His representatives were absent. Proverbs 29:18 reads, “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” When truth is obscured or seems far away, people feel comfortable to make allowance for sin. However, when a chosen one of God is on scene, all is exposed.
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God. (John 3:19-21).
It’s easy for a group of outlaws to explain away their behavior to each other in a remote hideout. However, their rationale evaporates in a courtroom when the law’s representative is sitting behind the bench.
This is precisely why the world hates Christians. The unbeliever’s disposition for rationalizing, minimizing and justifying their actions vanishes in the presence of a God-fearing, Bible-believing, Christ-honoring child of God. Sometimes the mere presence of a Christian is enough for their conscience to whisper, “What have you done?”
This is helpful to remember for two reasons. First, you should not be surprised when you endure persecution, even when you don’t really know why. The world hates anyone that represents accountability to God. Second, this applies only to the extent that you live a biblically consistent life that is not ashamed of Christ or His gospel. Sinners are not affected by unidentifiable Christians. Ask yourself if others feel comfortable sinning in your presence. If so, perhaps you have failed to appropriately stand for Christ. Repent and change that. If not, count any unkind response to you as a blessing, knowing that you are in the best possible company.
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (Jn. 15:18–19)