Jesus and those who hate

Jesus Close Up

In John 15:18-16:4,1 Jesus explains why the world hates Christians.

1. We are no longer identified with the world but with Christ.

The world’s love is fleeting. You can be “loved” one moment and rejected the next. That’s how the world’s love is; it grows cold, oh, so quickly. The world’s love is also conditional.

Christians are identified with Christ. In 15:20 Jesus says, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” Jesus calls His disciples to “remember” (mnemoneuo) that they will follow in His sandals. As followers of Jesus, we can’t expect to have an easier time than He did (cf. 15:18). When our lives truly reflect His character and calling, we will experience either rejection or acceptance from people around us. As Paul says, we will smell either as the aroma of death or life (2 Cor 2:14-16). For most people, we will be aroma of death. Nevertheless, there will always be a remnant that loves Jesus and will love us.

2. The world is ignorant of God.

In 15:21 Jesus says, “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.” The world will persecute Christians because they don’t know God. Unbelievers are not held to the same standard that Christians are. Unbelievers are supposed to sin; it’s a part of their job description

May we seek to be more tolerant of unbelievers and ratchet our expectations for professing believers. The world doesn’t want the church to judge them; the world wants the church to judge their own. Gandhi once observed, “I might be persuaded to become a Christian … if I ever met one.” Gandhi was impressed with Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, and he wanted to see evidence of a Christian living out Jesus’ teachings. May our lives showcase Christ.

Jesus argues that the world is ignorant because

a. They have rejected His words.

Jesus puts it like this: “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also.” Jesus isn’t saying that men and women would have been innocent if He had not come or spoken to them. The world was already sinful and rebellious before He appeared in the manger at Bethlehem. Christ’s coming highlighted sin in human hearts; He pointed it out so people had less grounds to claim ignorance. Therefore, to reject Christ and His words brings greater condemnation. Ever since the Fall, the world has been sinning against Light, but never had the world sinned against so much Light! The world is robbed of its excuses when it confronts Christ.

b. They have rejected His works.
He healed the sick, He cast out demons, He fed thousands, He calmed the sea, and He raised the dead. The world even attributed Jesus’ works to Satan (cf. Matt 12:24). No matter what Jesus said or did, the world chose to ignore Him and rebel against Him. Sadly, even the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ have not persuaded most people that Jesus is God. Consequently, the world stands condemned for the rejection of Jesus (John 3:18, 36; Rom 1:18-3:20).

c. They have no reason to hate.
Jesus says, “But they have done this to fulfil the word that is written in their Law, ‘THEY HATED ME WITHOUT A CAUSE.’” The ultimate reason for the world’s rejection of Jesus and His revelation of the Father is found in the Old Testament Scriptures. Jesus quotes from Ps 69:4..

4. Biggest enemies of Christians are religious people. 

In 16:1, Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling.” “These things” refer to Jesus’ words in 15:18-27.19 The only other instance of the verb “stumble” in John’s gospel is 6:61 where it includes the idea of no longer following Jesus. It appears to have the same sense in this context. Jesus did not want His disciples to stumble (skandalizo) in their discipleship after His departure because the events that would follow took them completely by surprise.

So how can we counter the hatred and persecution of this world order? How do we prepare ourselves to stand strong for Christ in the days to come? The following three principles will help us apply this passage to our lives.

Reflect the love of Christ to those around us.

We must learn to love the world when we are hated and persecuted. We must continually avoid the temptation to fight back and be combative, harsh, and vindictive. When we behave in this manner, we lose our witness. When you and I display the supernatural love of Christ, God is glorified, and we may even have the privilege of influencing our enemies for Christ.

Love our fellow believers.
One of the reasons that Jesus exhorts believers to love one another is because we will need each other’s strength to combat the world system. Unbelievers will turn against us on account of our faith in Christ. When this happens, we will need the strength and security of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to “spur one another on to love and good works” (Heb 10:24). This will enable us to persevere in our Christian fruitfulness.

Live in the blessing of persecution.

It’s been said, “Prosperity has often been fatal to Christianity, but persecution never.” Instead of dreading persecution, learn to revel in it. In Luke 6:22 Jesus says, “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man.” Jesus promises those who suffer for Him both temporal and eternal rewards. Consequently, it makes sense to pay the price in this life and experience Christ’s pleasure and joy in the life to come.