A string of Wikipedia readings brought to my mind a terrible event known as the Jonestown massacre, led by a man named Jim Jones. I’ll let you read the gruesome details — indeed, it was the work of insanity and delusion, under the veil of religious and political agenda.
From this incident we draw the expression, “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid,” a phrase used to warn others not to dive into possible cult scenarios or false ideologies, religious or otherwise, that could lead to certain disaster or further delusion.
Similarly but to a much lesser degree, I remember having a crush on a girl during my freshman year of high school, and I ate up everything she said. She was religious (to preserve tact, I will not mention which religion she subscribed to) and had, during one class, talked me into disposing of all of my music containing any profanity or crude themes. I went into my room that afternoon and pulled out a Busta Rhymes single and my Friday soundtrack and took a pen to the undersides, scratching at the surface of each vigorously. My brother and I shared a room at the time, and he promptly asked me what I was doing. I answered him, but I realized my rationale was nonsense.
Two thousand years ago, a man named Paul traversed Asia Minor and preached a new religion that many Jews in the area found incredibly offensive, and the delivery of this message produced avid followers and equally vehement opponents. Paul is on trial by the time we get to Acts 24, and states that these Jews perceive his doctrine, known as “the Way”, to be a “sect” of their own religion. Paul explains that he believes the same stuff, as a Jew himself, but clarifies that salvation is for all people and not just Jews.
In this time period, this was considered an extreme idea: that, contrary to social norms, non-Jews had access to God through a revolutionary figure known as Jesus the Christ, and that their religious practices were only secondary to having Jesus. At this time, just like the Jonestown of the future, the following was a minority and generally frowned upon.
But something strange is happening today: while the largest religion in the world is still Christianity, there is a bending and breaking of some of the core tenets of Jesus Christ, whether by the weight and force of religious deeds, or through the rotting intrusion of compromise by reducing the significance of self-denial. Real, true Christianity is now extreme.
It looks extreme because a lot of people don’t think God exists, or that Jesus Christ is just a symbol rather than an actual historical figure, or the perception that Christians at large are fanatical, hypocritical, or unrelatable to society.
A model of orthodoxy, or alternatively a more modern blend of the faith, is more acceptable now.
What’s the difference between this version of Christianity — the relentless pursuit of humility and love and the hope for eternal life by Christ alone — and the tenets of Jonestown, equally zealous apart from the resulting atrocities, in the eyes of our current society? If we behaved like Jesus or the apostle Paul, what sort of scrutiny or hatred would we draw? Would people roll their eyes at how delusional we are, ask us where we get our flavored beverage, or even have prolonged discussions with us about our intolerance and attempt to intervene?
Unquestionably, the likes of Jim Jones and other cult leaders likewise tote some convincing rhetoric, but there is a difference between those and what is presented in the Bible.
Examining Paul’s defense provides evidence of adherence to Jesus, a firm footing in the truth the Word provides (he himself being very familiar with Scriptures with a solid Jewish educational background), but also sincere humility and denial of self. While those savvy with the many tenets of Scripture, or any other ideologies, stand tall on self-righteousness, whether through inflating pet doctrines or bulldozing critical ideologies, it is the character of Christ, emboldened through the Holy Spirit and the foundation of the Word, that influences humility and separation from the human condition of idolizing the self. This is very unattractive to a consumer-capitalist society, and the attitude of Jesus, at least on the surface, is hard to find.
I can’t make real proclamations about who the “real followers” are — frankly, I’m not God. But don’t be surprised if your peers look at you funny when you say you love Jesus, and that the account as shown in the Bible is true. But stand firm; it is these presentations of hope, the brandishing of love, that changes hearts and minds, despite how rare your stance might be.
A P.S. example:
Paul spends two years in prison, and in Acts 26:28, Paul nearly convinces King Agrippa to become a Christian by his testimony alone. Even in chains, your testimony of Jesus is still valuable.
And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.