There was a saying attributed to Jesus that was extant among the early churches. The saying has been preserved in the writings of several individuals and also in at least one Gnostic writing. Understand that though the saying bears the ring of authenticity, it cannot be verified as authentic. This is the saying: “Whoever is near Me is near the fire.” What is true is that following the Master will expose the one following to calumny and contempt from those identified as belonging to this present, dying world.
Nor should anyone imagine that Jesus meant to make following Him easy. Jesus warned, “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law” [LUKE 12:49-53].
Mankind generally seeks an easy way to practise religion. Perhaps they can perform some duty, or attend to some particular service, or even recite a prayer, and that will suffice to appease the righteous demands of God Who is Holy. However, Jesus was quite specific that only a new life would please the True and Living God; and new life invites opposition.
Moreover, people seem always to seek an excuse for behaviour. The Bible declares we are sinful, but we endeavour to excuse our actions. In that vein, I’m intrigued by the effort to find a genetic basis for our choices. We have heard in recent years of a “gay gene,” though no one is actually able to find it. Recently, we have been hearing of a “warrior gene” that makes people aggressive; though some who have the supposed genetic code are actually rather relaxed in their interactions with others and some who don’t have the gene tend to be quite combative. We’ve heard of a “criminal gene,” though some who have this supposed genetic predisposition to criminality are law abiding, and many who are criminals don’t have this genetic marker at all. Ultimately, we are driven back to the teaching of the Word that we choose to sin and thus bring upon ourselves condemnation.
Because one cannot hide behind a façade of niceness or self-righteousness, he is angered by the one who exposes his sin. This correlation is implied by Jesus’ assessment of those who refuse to be saved. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 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 3:16-21].