By Alex Florez
Reading the Bible closely, we discover how very dangerous its ideas are. Throughout Scripture, the myriad of cultures we read about stand in stark contrast to the way of life required by the God of the Bible. Conflict invariably arises between God’s people and their neighbors: devotion to Yahweh is non-negotiable to one and intolerable to the other. The results of this conflict include broken diplomacy, murder, and other forms of rampant hostility.
In Exodus, we encounter an inveterate opponent of God who can no longer tolerate the presence of the enslaved people whose labor has fattened Egypt’s coffers for generations. After stubbornly watching his people experience intolerable circumstances, Pharaoh refuses to emancipate God’s people until the suffering impacts him personally. When his son perishes, Pharaoh has finally seen enough. “Get out immediately from among my people…and go, worship the LORD as you have said” (Exodus 12:31). This is not the concession of a man who has been negotiated into an amicable separation; this is an absolute capitulation by an exasperated autocrat who wants to put as much distance between himself and the God who has wreaked havoc on his authority, his people, and his understanding of existence itself.
Association with God’s people became anathema, and he must be rid of them to preserve his kingdom.
Centuries later, Jesus Himself would make it clear that following His teaching would lead to conflict with others. He warned that persecution would fall upon anyone associated with His name. His forecast is affirmed in the book of Acts and in the epistles of Paul, Peter, John, and James. For time immemorial, allegiance to the God of the Bible has led to indignation, objection, and condemnation.
There’s something about following Jesus that seems to rub the world in all the wrong ways. At the same time, if we are pursuing the heart of God with complete devotion, we should see more and more clearly the darkness and injustices of the world at large. We should experience a sort of spiritual friction as we live in a world whose values and priorities are often contrary to the heart of Jesus Christ, and we should not be surprised when our commitment to the gospel raises the ire of those around us.
It seems clear from Scripture that if we hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness rather than riches and pleasure; if we are poor in spirit rather than arrogantly religious; if we are gentle rather than domineering; if we are pure in heart rather than philosophically promiscuous—we can rest assured of two things: trouble will likely find us before too long, and God will be there ready to faithfully discharge the power, love, and sound mind that we will so desperately need in our times of conflict, however great or small.