Let us go, therefore, unto Him, outside the camp and share in His humiliation" (Hebrews 13:13).
This exhortation of God's Word gives a very clear sense of direction to the followers of Jesus Christ, in every age and, most particularly, today.
As Christians, we should never be with the in-crowd. Our Master stands apart and He calls us to His side. This will mean that we bear His disgrace and share in His afflictions. This is the cost of our association with Him.
A Christian is one who shares in the sufferings of Christ so as to share in His glory (Romans 8:17).
The Lord allows us to participate with Him in His sufferings for the salvation of the world.
This is the outcome of our being members of His Body, the Church.
This is what St Paul refers to when he talks about making up, in our own bodies, all the hardships still to be undergone by Christ (Colossians 1:24).
Paul knew, since his conversion on the Damascus road (Acts 9:4), that Jesus identifies Himself totally with His suffering brothers and sisters. What we do for them, we do for Him (Matthew 25:40).
The cost of our discipleship is identification with a suffering and rejected Saviour. This will mean inevitably, for ourselves, unpopularity, ridicule and humiliation. For a host of martyrs throughout the ages, right up to the present, it has meant the shedding of their blood.
Instrumental in the conversion of St Justin Martyr, in the second century AD, was his observation that "Christians prefer the Truth to their own lives".
The big temptation, of course, is to court the favour of "the world" and to compromise on those crucial matters which put us entirely at odds with "the present age". Ancient Christian wisdom has always identified "the world, the flesh and the Devil" as inimical to our belonging to Jesus Christ.
Why are we surprised then at the hostility of the world? Constantly in the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit warns us about the world and worldliness. The Lord Jesus has taken us "out of the world" (John 15:19) which is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:31).We are commanded by God, therefore, not to love this world nor anything that is in the world (1 John 2:15-17).
Our positions on such crucial matters as the nature of marriage and the family, the sanctity of human life at all stages of development, are inevitably going to be at total variance with current trends and popular culture. We have to expect that and not be fazed by the opposition and hostility that will be aroused in the world.
We do not belong to this world (John 17:16). Our Saviour's choice calls us out of this world and to stand in opposition to it. We are to "be not conformed to this age but to be transformed" by the Word of God (Romans 12:2-4).
Our mission is to call the world to conversion. Our mission is to be faithful to Christ and His Truth no matter what the cost. We are to preach His Word in season and out of season and, welcome or unwelcome, to insist upon it. Our urgent task is to "reprove and rebuke" (2 Timothy 4:2).
We should not be so preoccupied, with "filling the pews" in our Churches, that we fail in our fidelity to Jesus Christ. Gladly, let us bear His reproach so as to have the honour of suffering, in some small measure, for the love and honour of His Holy Name, until His glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:13).