Jesus totally alienated the religious leaders of His day during the final week of His life. He knew in advance that His bold actions and assertions would inflame hostility against Him, but He proceeded anyway. 

     When He rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, He was clearly claiming to be the Messiah. When His enemies heard the common people cry out, “Hosanna to the one who comes in the name of the Lord,” they were beside themselves with rage. “Tell your followers to be quiet!” they demanded. But Jesus told them that if the people kept silent, the rocks would cry out with praise.

     The next day, when Jesus cleansed the temple, the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders angrily protested, “Who gives you the authority to do these things?” Jesus answered that His authority came from the same place as John the Baptist’s authority—so He asked them, “Did that authority come from man, or did it come from God?” They were put on the   spot and refused to answer because either response would incriminate them.

     Then Jesus told a convicting parable in which the religious leaders were unmistakably portrayed as the villains. They were the stewards of a vineyard who had foolishly exploited the owner’s trust. “The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people” (Luke 20:19).

     Since we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we will also experience occasions when we know in advance that standing for Christ will make some people really angry. As much as possible, we should try to get along with all men (see Romans 12:18), but there are times when we can almost predict that standing for truth will anger those who oppose it.

     Take, for example, the Biblical truth about marriage and family. Satan continues to attack the basic building block of society with a vengeance. A church today that denies membership to couples living together without marriage will infuriate some young people and their families.

     If a church refuses to marry a couple because they do not meet the Biblical qualifications for marriage, it can anticipate some hostile reactions—especially if the one being refused is the son or daughter of a prominent leader. If the church stands for the principle that marriage is only to be between a man and a woman, there will be many who protest such “intolerance.”

     Since marriage originated with God and not man, we are not free to disregard it, dissolve it, or redefine it. It is a divine institution, and the designer made it clear that “…‘a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’…what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:5-6).

     The church that dares stand counter-culture on any issue, no matter how caring or consistent, is occasionally going to receive vicious attacks. “Who are you to judge?” “I thought the church was supposed to be a place of love and forgiveness!” “Hypocrites!” “Pharisees!” “Bigots!” “This church is in the dark ages.” “We’re the only army that shoots our own wounded!” “I’ll never be back!” Some angrily resort to slander against the church leaders and even threaten lawsuits.

     When that happens, instead of feeling victimized or questioning Biblical principles, we would do well to remember the courage of Jesus. He stood for truth, knowing in advance that it was going to cost Him His life. He warned, “No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20).


Bob Russell is Retired Senior Minister of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY.