“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 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. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me” (Jn 15:18-21).
Because the world “does not know the One who sent Me”, it is living in darkness. And it is a darkness that hates the light. Jesus is the light (Jn 8:12), and “everyone who does evil hates the light” (Jn 3:20). And did you know that by virtue of Christ living His life through you that you are also called “the light”? “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14).
The darkness hates the light. The world living in darkness hates the Son. And the world hates us, the Son’s followers. How do we respond to that hatred? There are three mistakes we can make as we process and react to the hate all around us.
First, we can take on an unhealthy victim mentality that wants our fair share. We argue for a seat at the table. We are owed a place in the public square. Our viewpoint deserves to be heard. We constantly blame the _____ (you fill in the blank) for the lack of respect we have in places of media and political power. But was that ever promised to us? The prediction from Jesus above sounds like just the opposite. The world will hate us. Something I believe we should expect and accept.
A second mistake is that we can fight fire with fire. This is similar to the attitude above with a slight variation. Because the world hates me, I can be a jerk in return. If you are going to suppress my right to speak out, I will fight to suppress yours. I will boycott your establishment. I will … etc. How does this fit Jesus’ call to love our enemies, and actually shower them with goodness in response to their hate? Christ’s call to us has always been a higher call of love, not getting even.
The third erroneous approach is basically the opposite of one and two, but just as dangerous. It is a people-approval idol that doesn’t want anyone to hate us. And we will do anything we can to not experience the hate. I am not person one or two at all, but I very easily fall into the trap of person three. I want people to like me. I want the new neighbor to think highly of me. I stand on the sidelines not wanting my true colors to show for fear of rejection; even when rejection seems to be exactly what Jesus says is coming and its OK. Have you been there? The world rejected Jesus first. “And the slave is not greater than his master.”
We are called to speak the truth. We are called to speak the truth with grace. We are called to speak the truth with love. We are called to speak the truth with humility. “Always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience” (I Pet 3:15-16).
We can focus on gentleness and reverence and a good conscience and we should. But let’s not forget the ready to speak; ready to give an answer.
The world that hates us has already made up its mind. And it is a world system that hated Jesus first. But the individuals that make up that system are not the enemy. Satan is the enemy. The person standing against you is not the enemy. They are actually prisoners of the enemy. Something we all were until Jesus set us free.
In your interactions with a world that hates us, let’s not focus on the hate coming our way. Let’s counter that evil wave with a love that is pure, a love straight from the Father. A love that sends an aroma of grace to a hurting world.