“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19 NKJV)
Jesus let His disciple know what to expect from the start. They should have known immediately that they weren’t going to win any popularity contests since they’d probably run into a lot of hate if they followed His commands. The focus of the hate, though, isn’t on the disciples, it’s on Jesus. People would hate the disciples because rather than getting along with the world, they would seek to obey Jesus. It didn’t matter if they showed love, the fact that they would dare to make Jesus and Hs ways the center of their lives would make His followers the object of a lot of hate. While Jesus lived, people were thrown out of the synagogues for following Him; how much more would they be hated for following Jesus after they thought they took care of the “Jesus thing” by crucifying Him. Christians aren’t called to be popular, though, they’re called to be faithful and being faithful puts us in opposition to our culture. We should never be hateful when we stand for Christ, but we shouldn’t be surprised when others hate us.
I had a professor who put it bluntly once: “The problem with Christians is that no one wants to kill them anymore.” He might change his tune a little bit in today’s climate, but Christians who stand up for God’s way are the objects of a lot of hate and, in an interesting twist, we’re called the haters because we stand for God’s word. But why are we surprised? Didn’t Jesus say this would happen? When you follow Jesus, when you obey His commandments, you’ll run up against the thoughts and the ways of the world. People won’t like it and they’ll hatefully proclaim how hateful you are. When that happens, just smile because Jesus was right. Smile and keep on loving them no matter what their sin might be. Jesus kept loving and forgiving, even on the cross.
Lord, it’s not fun to be the object of hatred and derision from the world. It would be so much more pleasant to win popularity contests instead of finishing third in a two man contest. But the joy of following you in obedience is worth anything we endure. Keep me faithful.