Study in John’s Gospel. Presentation 66. Confronted With Hatred Chap 15v18-27. Presentation 66. Introduction.
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The complaint is sometimes made against some evangelists that, while they may proclaim the blessings of Christianity, they often fail to draw attention to its cost from a human point of view. In particular, they sometimes fail to point out that those who faithfully follow Christ will be persecuted.
Such a failure is not found with Jesus. He was totally honest about discipleship. We have studied some of the great advantages of following him but now we see that he does not gloss over the fact that love for him would mean being exposed to the world's hatred.
The dominant theme in the gospel now turns to the hostility of the world towards Christ and his followers, the word "hate" or "hatred" is repeated here seven times. These verses are of great importance, if for no other reason than that we might learn of the great gap between
those who are Christ's own and the world.
If we grasp that, then it
will help us cope with the
inevitable hatred and
criticism to which believers
are exposed by the world.
Jesus indicates three reasons why his followers will be hated. First, for the simple reason that they are not "of the world" v19. When John uses the term "world" he is neither thinking of a spinning globe in the universe, nor of the human race that populates it, but of a world system. A world of men in rebellion against God, and consequently, it will involve the world's values, pleasures, pastimes, and aspirations.
This is the world that hates Christ's
followers, and the reason it hates
them is that they are distinct.
Simply put, the world hates
them for being different.
Let me illustrate that. Today umbrellas may be seen everywhere and are not at all unusual. But when Jonas Hanway first tried to introduce the umbrella into England and walked down the street beneath one he was pelted with dirt and stones. He was actually being persecuted for being different!
The world always suspects non-conformity. The world likes convention; it likes to be able to label a person and put him in a convenient pigeon-hole. And anyone who does not conform to the pattern or mould will certainly meet with trouble.
If this is true of any difference then it is particularly true of the radical difference caused by the transformation of men and women by the power of Christ’s Spirit. To spend time with Jesus is to become like him and as a result to have quite different experiences, loyalties, and goals. So the world hates ‘the Jesus’ in the believer who is shining out. Remember the fury of the Sanhedrin after Pentecost because of their inability to intimidate a group of apparently uneducated disciples and press them into their way of thinking.
We read that , “They took note
that these men had been with
Jesus” Acts 4.13
They had been moulded by Jesus
and shaped by his value system
A second reason for the world’s hatred is that Jesus had "chosen them out of the world”. What does this mean? He chose them for his own and for a specific work in the world. If the world rejects Christ's salvation and despises his work, it will also hate those who have been chosen by Jesus to perform the work that God has chosen for them to do, Eph.2v10. We have already come across two examples of this in this gospel.
First, in John 6, Jesus had taught that no
man could come to him unless drawn by
the Father and then we read that many
of his disciples "went back, and walked
no more with him" v66. Again in
John 8, after Jesus had taught the
same thing, we read, "Then they
took up stones to throw at him" v59.
Thirdly, because the world hates Jesus, it hates Christians because they are identified themselves with him. Note the emphasis upon the word “I” in v19. “I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”
Here is the heart of the matter. Why does the world hate Christians?
Because it hates their Lord. Hatred does not exist because
of what Christians are in themselves; they are nothing.
It does not exist because of what they
have done; they are harmless.
Hatred exists because the world hates
Jesus and because Christians are
identified with and called by him.
The ultimate reason why the world hates Christians is that it hates Jesus. Of course, this only pushes the problem back one step for we ask, why does the world hate Jesus? Jesus himself answers that question in vs 22-24.
First, because of what he has said. “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin”. Why should they hate Jesus for His words? Some people are hated for their words, but surely not Jesus? Some men's words are proud and arrogant. We hate pride and show it no pity, save in ourselves. But Jesus wasn’t arrogant. Rather, he was the most humble man who ever lived. Even when he was afflicted he "opened not his mouth”, Isa.53v7.
Some men's words are selfish. Everything revolves around them, and they are despised for that. But Jesus wasn’t selfish. He laid aside his majesty, assumed our humanity and died for our salvation. Some people are hated for the meanness of their speech. But can we hate Christ for that? He wasn’t mean, he was loving and gentle. He said, “Come unto me, all you that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”, Matt. 11v28.
Some are hated for the hypocrisy of their speech. But Jesus did not hide behind a mask of hypocrisy. Instead, he is the only man who ever lived whose word could always be trusted. He never said one thing and meant another.
How then could Christ’s words draw out the world’s hatred? Well before Jesus appeared on the scene and spoke, men and women were happy with ‘relative goodness’. They could have a little arrogance, but not too much; a little selfishness, but not too much; a little meanness, a little hypocrisy and still be happy about themselves. But when Jesus appeared, his words shone like a searchlight and revealed man’s behaviour for what it clearly is - sinful.
And men understandably hated the exposure.
Let me illustrate this. Years ago, when missionaries first went out to Africa,
the wife of an African chief visited a mission station. The missionary had a little mirror hung up on a tree outside his home, and the woman glanced into it. She had never seen her own heavily tattooed face before and startled by it she asked the missionary,
"Who is that horrible-looking person inside the tree?"
"It is not the tree," said the missionary. "The mirror is
reflecting your own face."
When she eventually understood the properties of the
mirror she said, "I must have the mirror. How much
will you sell it for?"
The missionary didn’t want to sell his mirror but she was so insistent that he did so just to placate her. After she made the purchase she said, "I will never have it making faces at me again." She threw it down and broke it to pieces.
Men and women hate Jesus and the Bible for much the same reasons. Christ and God's Word reveal our true selves, and we don’t like what we see!
Secondly, the world hates Christ for his works. cfv24, "If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father”.
It is not that men and women were sinless before Christ's coming; but his works, like his words, brought sin to light. What were his works? In part they involved the miracles he performed but they also refers to all that Christ does. When we put the term in its widest context, we see that the works of Jesus are the works of God, the works that the Father gave him to do.
Both the ‘work’ and the ‘revelation' of God are brought to fitting climax and completion in Jesus’ ministry. This is precisely why the world hates him.
He was doing the works of God which, with the words of God, reveal our spiritual bankruptcy. Before we had Christ's works for comparison, our works looked pretty good. But next to his perfection our works look shabby; our goodness is exposed as filthy rags.
God is saying that our goodness fails to
meet his standard and so we need the
salvation that God offers us in
And the world hates that!
Faced with the hatred of the world there are those who determine to walk away from costly discipleship.
They are determined to try and escape the world’s critical judgement, they intend to keep a low profile and as a result they fail to shine for Jesus.
That reaction might appear wise as long as we give no thought to God’s assessment of the situation. But when we place God in the picture, and give attention to his judgement then the balance changes.
The O.T. quotations from Ps. 35v19 and 69v4 that we find in v25 expresses God’s judgement on the world’s hatred of Christ and Christ’s followers, saying it is groundless and without any justification “without a reason”. Will God ignore this injustice? No! He will move against those who have hated or ignored his Son. While at the same time he will receive and honour those who have taken their place alongside Jesus and borne the world’s ridicule with him.
Finally, there’s a word for those who’ve taken their stand with Jesus and known the world's hatred. If this is true of you, you will know that the favour of the world cannot begin to compare with the favour that Jesus shows to his people. And the world's fellowship, for all its hollow joviality, cannot compare with our rich fellowship with Christ.
You would not think of returning to what you were before you met Jesus, would you?
Being on the receiving end of hatred and persecution can have the effect of hardening our hearts against our detractors. And out of that hardness there can arise a desire to strike back in fierce retaliation. But this is not Christ's way.
If you find yourself in danger of retaliation then, remember what was written of Christ, "They hated me without a cause." Then, in
imitation of Jesus, ensure that you give no cause for
hatred either. Make sure that any hatred that does
come your way is drawn out
only by your love for