“They will hate you.” These are not the words that the disciples wanted to hear from Jesus, but this was the truth. When the Holy Spirit came upon those whom Jesus had chosen, they would become proclaimers of the truth. They would be witnesses of the events and the power that they had experienced. But this witnessing would not be without a cost. For Jesus and any who would follow Him, this truth-proclamation had a certain end: persecution and death.
Jesus explained that a natural, sin-caused enmity exists between God and man. The world and those in it are naturally filled with animosity toward the three-fold message of the gospel. Because of rugged individuality, the first point of contention for the world is that they are owned by someone else, God. In self-justifying self-righteousness, they are further offended when they are accused of being sinners. Finally, their self-sufficiency is insulted when it is explained that they need to rely on someone else, Jesus, because they are not good enough on their own. To an unregenerate person, the entire gospel message is demeaning and defaming. Because of this, in hatred, nonbelievers hate gospel messengers.
Sadly, this hatred is compounded by some Christians who hear Jesus say, “they will hate you” and misunderstand Him to be saying, “and you should hate them.” Instead of living a life that is open and engaging and based on the love of God towards sinners, some who claim to be Christians live lives of hatred, constantly looking to tell people that God hates them, and that they hate them. In their minds, they erroneously imagine that Jesus taught that Christians should hate everyone who isn’t a Christian. They would go on to misquote passages like 1 John 2:15, “love not the world, nor things in the world.”
Failing to see what Jesus actually taught and even what Jesus demonstrated, they dismiss any who are non-Christians. Instead of building friendships with nonbelievers they isolate themselves with passages like James 4:4, “friendship with the world is enmity with God.” Instead of studying scripture, some ministers preach generic messages of heretical, hate-filled doctrine denying the gospel that saved them.
In Romans 5:8 Paul writes, “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Furthermore, Paul explained in Romans 9:2-3, “I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” Believers will be hated and abused but this does not give license for believers to be hateful and abusive. Rather, Jesus explained further in Luke 6:28, that when we are hated and abused we should “bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.” Any reaction less than love is anti-Christ. In attempting to attack the world, some have inadvertently demonstrated the character of the sinful hating world.
The mark of a true believer is their love for others. It is not beneath a Christian to offer forgiveness and love to those around them. The example of Christ on the cross was not that of a spitting, cursing, angry Jesus, rather, 1 Peter 2:23 tells us that “when He was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.” The basis for the silence of Jesus in the face of such hatred was His trust in the goodness and justice of God. As followers of Jesus we can respond with Paul in Romans 8:31, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” Declaring the truth will bring animosity, it always has. But let us love like Jesus, and let us trust in the God who will always judge rightly.
Food For Thought: What will be the reaction of the world to the declaration of the truth? Why do you think that some people never feel any persecution in their lives?