“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26)
“Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:7)
These two verses are not in contradiction. In fact they are meant to compliment one another. A Luke 6:26 church (to the exclusion of 1 Timothy 3:7) is not healthy. Neither is a 1 Timothy 3:7 church (to the exclusion of Luke 6:26) a healthy church.
Some churches believe that being persecuted (no matter what reason) is the mark of a true church. After all Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil”. Westboro Baptist Church fits that bill. So does this mean that they are “Blessed” according to Jesus?
Other churches believe that being thought of well by outsiders is the mark of a true church. After all the world is watching us and we may be the only Jesus that some people ever see. That means if they hate us then they also hate Jesus—and we certainly do not want them to hate Jesus. This is why Paul wants the overseers to be thought of well by outsiders. If they like the pastor then they probably will want to come to church. But what do we do with what Jesus said in Luke 6:26?
Why did they love the false prophets?
In Luke 6:26 Jesus is contrasting the true prophets (Luke 6:22) that were hated, excluded, reviled, and spurned as evil. Now after Christ true prophets are regarded in such a way “on account of Christ”. But false prophets tell the people exactly what they want to hear.
False prophets are described by Paul in 2 Timothy 4. They are the ones that draw a crowd because they reject the truth and instead “teach to suit their own passions” and “wander off into myths”. People will flock to a church that tells them everything they want to hear about themselves.
I’d be really cautious if everyone loved our church. In fact I’d be a little wary if those that actively reject the gospel feel right at home in your church. Jesus seems to be saying that true prophets will be hated, excluded, reviled, and spurned as evil. And Paul said that godliness will be persecuted.
So then it is good to have everyone hate you?
There is a little phrase that I have thus far left off of my quotation of Luke 6:26. Yes, true prophets will be hated, excluded, reviled, and spurned as evil but they will be “on account of the Son of Man”.
The folks at Westboro Baptist aren’t being persecuted because they are following Jesus. They are being persecuted, reviled, hated, excluded, and spurned as evil because frankly they deserve it. They are evil. They twist Scripture to suit their own hateful impulses and they hide behind passages like this to make themselves think they are being persecuted for the sake of righteousness.
This I believe is what Paul is saying in 1 Timothy 3. An overseer (and I believe this would in many ways extend to the church as a whole) should be well thought of by outsiders; namely, they should not be able to rightly point a finger and say, “this man is a swindler, a liar, a cheat, a hatemonger, etc.”
I love what Ed Stetzer says, “The cross should be the only stumbling block any “outsider” would ever face when entering our churches.” Of coure by “the cross” is a reference to Christ and everything upon which he stands. And I believe Stetzer would agree that the cross should be so illuminated that those who hate Jesus also have a tendency towards hating those who are magnifying Christ.
Your church should be hated…but only because of the offensiveness of Jesus (and our fidelity to Him), and not because you’re an idiot.