Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (Jn 15:18). If you do a survey of the book of Acts, this prophecy of Jesus certainly came true at lightning speed. From the opening chapters every Apostle and the Church experienced incredible persecution. Weeks into preaching, Stephen became the first martyr (Acts 7). James was beheaded by Herod (Acts 12). The Apostle Paul experienced incredible hatred from every city that he entered (2 Cor 16:23-29).
The prophecy of Jesus has not ceased. Even today Christians all around the world are experiencing the hatred of the world. According to Open Doors Ministry, “a staggering 11 Christians are killed every day for their faith in the top 50 countries ranked on the World Watch List.” Just about four years ago (2015) 21 Coptic Orthodox Egyptian Christians were beheaded for their faith in Libya by ISIS. It was so hard seeing the pictures of these uncompromising men on their knees in orange jump suits willing to be martyred for their faith in Christ.
Why Aren’t We Hated More?
Since Jesus clearly told us that we would experience the hatred of the world (Jn 15:18-25), the obvious question is why aren’t we experiencing it on a more regular basis. For certain the United States is a unique place on the planet. Unlike the rest of the world, Christians are protected. God has been gracious in this time of history giving our country all kinds of religious freedoms and protections preventing persecution. But even with all of these graces, we should expect some “minor” forms of persecution such as verbal attacks, discrimination, avoidance, loss of friendships, hardships at work, etc. We may not be “hated” but shouldn’t we expect, at a minimum, to be “disliked?” Consider the following four reasons a professing Christian may not be experiencing hatred from the world.
1. We are really “of this world.” Jesus was clear that the world loves their own (Jn 15:19). Darkness loves darkness and hates the light (Jn 3:19). The old adage is true, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Everyone likes to be with their own kind. The world loves fellowship with people that are just like themselves, which approve unrighteousness and unholiness. The light hurts the eyes of those in the dark and they have an aversion to those who remind them of their sin. But they heartily unite with those who join in with their philosophy of life, worldly entertainment and fleshly desires (1 John 2:15-17). It is possible that some who claim to be Christians may indeed be “of this world” or “friends of the world.” They have not changed, but look and sound just like every other person in the world because indeed they are truly unregenerate and are in fact “enemies of God” (James 4:4) and controlled by the “Prince of the power of the air….[living] in the passions of [their] flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind” (Eph 2:1-3). If we have never made a lost person feel uncomfortable or given them reason to dislike us in the slightest way, it may be true of us that we are “lost” just like them. At some point our love for Christ and desire to please Christ should cause us to shun the dark and live holy lives among a lost world. Inevitably that holy lifestyle will cause some conflict, even if simply at a minimum having the world “speak against us” (1 Peter 2:11-12).
2. Our commitment to the Lordship of Christ is lacking. Jesus said that the world will hate us because Jesus is our master and we are His servants. Just as they hated the Master so they will hate the Master’s servants (Jn 15:20). As servants of Christ we simply do what He commands of us. He is not only our Savior, but also the Lord of every area of our lives. His agenda is our agenda. His will becomes our will. The lack of hatred from the world can be traced back to this issue. It is possible that there are some significant areas in our lives that have not come under the Lordship of Christ. In other words, we are believers who are in need of serious sanctification. We have been saved and are truly called out of the world, but we are lacking in our conformity to Christ. Without being legalistic, our lives should be as holy as possible. This means that our dress, our entertainment, out language, our friendships, our associations, our financial dealings, our activities, our eating habits….EVERYTHING should come under the Lordship of Christ. When the Church begins looking like the world, it is no wonder that the world doesn’t hate us!
3. Fear has overcome us. Fear is a real temptation for all of us. Jesus commanded us, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt 10:28). Fearing man rather than God can be a real snare to the Christian and cripple his ministry and influence (Prov 29:25). It is true that the world can do some very hurtful things to Christians (Jn 16:2-4). But God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love and self-control (2 Tim 1:7). We overcome fear when we entrust our lives to our faithful God (1 Peter 4:19).
4. Our influence is limited. We are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matt 5:13-14). But what good is salt that has lost its saltiness or a light that is hidden under a bowl? By our very nature we are called to have a strong influence in this world. We are not “of” this world but we are still to live “in” this world. This means that we are to rub up next to people on a regular basis who do not know Jesus Christ. We are not to be friends of the world, but we are to make friends in the world for the sole purpose of continuing the ministry God has given us. We are not to be hermits and retreat back to our homes and our churches. Indeed, we need places of retreat and places where we find comfort and strength with fellow believers. But we must also go into the world. We must talk boldly, live visibly and influence profoundly. We must speak the Gospel to those around us who are lost. We must live holy among the godless and entrust that God will do His work in their lives. We must be careful that we are purposeful in finding ways to infiltrate the world. The Lord would be pleased with us if we would be a little more creative in finding ways to make non-Christian friends for the sole purpose of evangelization. Maybe we are not being hated more often in the world because we aren’t “salting” or “lighting” the world around us.
Don’t Go Searching
For certain none of us should go searching for hatred. As we live in this world we are to be as “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16). There is nothing worse than an abrasive and annoying Christian. We should strive not to be hated because we are arrogant, annoying or abrasive. The only reason we should be hated is because of the truth of the Gospel we stand for and the holiness that we promote. We shouldn’t have to go looking for hatred, it rather will come to us naturally if we are truly living the Christian life in this world. In this time of peace that the Lord in His sovereignty has given us, may we “lift our dropping hands and strengthen our weakened knees” (Heb 12:12) so that our faith will be strong when it is truly tested. We will all be hated at some level as Christians in this world. May we be found faithful when it does happen and may we rejoice that we have been considered worthy to suffer for Christ’s sake knowing that we have great rewards in heaven (Matt 5:11-12).