“I have loved justice and hated iniquity: therefore I die in exile.” – Gregory VII
In the 11th century, the great Pope Gregory VII was hounded by Emperor Henry IV, who tried to usurp power over the Church by claiming the authority to appoint bishops. The issue eventually devolved into a political and military struggle in which the Pope’s allies were ultimately defeated, and as a result Pope Gregory VII spent his last days in exile.
It is hardly surprising that Gregory would be pessimistic about human nature in his final days, considering his situation.
Still, the “therefore” in Gregory’s statement is striking. The great Pope expected to be attacked because of his love of justice and his rectitude. In other words, he expected to be hated because he embodied Christian values.
Pope Gregory’s words should serve as a warning to every Christian. To be a Christian is to be hated in this world. Christ has even said as much, declaring that “you will be hated by all nations because of my name.” (Matthew 24:9)
For this world is a “vale of tears,” a path of trial, and a scene of suffering. The devil is the prince of this fallen world, and he will do his utmost to drag souls to hell. He will also do everything in his power to cause those under his control to attack those who are faithful to Christ.
The devil will tempt us as long as we are on earth. If we are obeying Christ, the temptations and trials of the devil will assault us. The devil will not let any soul seeking to follow Christ go unscathed.
This means that those who follow Christ will be attacked by their friends, demonized by their enemies, and assaulted by their own improper desires. And the powers of this world and the forces of darkness will unite to mock and persecute faithful Christians.
We must guard ourselves from within and without when it comes to temptation. Indeed, we must embrace that time of trial when it comes.
The trials of this world are as nothing compared to the glory of heaven. But the trials of this earth will be severe for Christians who truly seek to follow God.