Facing Hate: John 15:18-16:4

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As we keep moving through Jesus’ last big message to His disciples on the night He was arrested, we come to an interesting idea that many Christians today either miss or choose to ignore. This idea is one that is both counter-cultural, as well as one that pushes against our human nature, even if we can see on the surface that it is logical.

Let’s dive in and discover what Jesus told His followers after describing and reemphasizing His command to love one another. Our passage for this episode is found in John’s gospel, chapter 15, and we will be reading from the New American Standard Bible translation. Jumping into Jesus’ teaching in verse 18, He tells the disciples:

18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 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, because of this the world hates you. 20 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. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. 25 But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’

Let’s pause briefly here to draw our attention onto a big counter-intuitive idea that we might be tempted to believe. This idea is simply that a side effect of following Jesus and loving others is that other people will love us in return. Jesus never hints at the idea that His followers would be loved or even liked by the world. Jesus tells His followers very clearly that the world would hate His people, but that shouldn’t bother or surprise us because the world hated Jesus first.

Jesus faced the worst death imaginable during that era of history, and He tells us that because He was persecuted, we should expect nothing less than persecution as well.

Why does the world hate Jesus and His followers?

Some people have claimed that the Bible is filled with hate and because of this, all those who follow the Bible are filled with hate, but this in itself doesn’t translate into a reason to hate the Bible, or those who follow it, as a response.

There are plenty of reasons that someone could hate Jesus, the Bible, or His followers. However, the last phrase we read before pausing is fascinating to me. Verse 25 tells us that those who hated Jesus fulfilled the prediction in a very specific way. This verse says that “They hated Me without a cause.

This verse and phrase gives us two frames of reference for the hate the world will throw our way.

The first is that they hate us because they don’t understand us, nor do they want to understand us. They may have heard or seen someone claiming to be a follower of Jesus who acts in a hateful way, and then conclude that every follower of Jesus is like this. In a similar way, they could have read a verse or story from the Bible that depicts God or His people as unloving and conclude from this that God is hateful and not worthy of love. In this frame of reference, there might be a reason for someone to hate Jesus, or some of His followers, but this hate is based on faulty assumptions. It might feel like hate in this way is justified through logic, but it is not. Hating someone based on what someone else has done is illogical at best.

The other frame of reference is that it is simply easier to follow the crowd and if someone is vocal about their hate for the Christian faith, then it is easy for someone without knowledge or an opinion of it to silently side with the vocal opinion. People who hate Christianity because the culture has placed a target on Christians are guilty of hating Jesus without cause. Open the pages of the Bible and search for a reason to hate Jesus. It is better to hate Jesus with a reason than to simply drift with culture. Drifting is easy, but it will never lead you to anywhere positive.

However, Jesus isn’t finished sharing with the disciples. He wants to emphasize and remind His followers that even if they will be abused and hated like He was, they will never be alone. Picking back up in verse 26, Jesus reminds His followers of the promise He shared earlier. Jesus tells them:

26 “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, 27 and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.

16:1 “These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling. 2 They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. 3 These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me. 4 But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them. These things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.

Let’s stop reading here. Jesus tells us that His followers will be hated and killed, and He tells us that when this happens, those filled with hate who are doing the abuse will believe they are serving God. They do these things thinking they know God, but the reality is that they do not know God or Jesus. We can see hinted in these verses a warning against anything that tries to come between us and God.

If we let any person, idea, tradition, or logical idea filter our picture or opinion of God and the truth He reveals in the Bible, we are warned in these verses that we might ultimately become the guilty party thinking we offer a service to God when we don’t really know Him. Those who don’t know Jesus and who have not placed their belief in Him are susceptible of believing anything and everything, regardless of whether it is valid.

The solution to this dilemma is one reason why I challenge you every episode to pray and study the Bible for yourself. Through prayer and Bible study, God will lead us personally through the guiding of the Holy Spirit, and He will teach us what He wants us to learn. Learning directly from the Bible is the safest way to know God and to be lead by Him!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As always, be sure to seek God first and place Him first in your life. Be sure to place God ahead of the ideas and traditions in the culture you live in, and be sure to stay focused on His command to love others. Don’t worry if people hate you. Don’t be surprised when it happens. Jesus warned us that we will be hated because He was hated, but we can look past the hate and abuse to a world where sin has been destroyed and is gone forever.

Also, be sure to always pray and study the Bible for yourself to grow that personal relationship with God. While a pastor, speaker, author, or podcaster can give you ideas to think about, filter everything through the simple reading of God’s Word, the Bible, and don’t use other people’s ideas to cloud your picture of what the Bible teaches. As a side-note: I designed Reflective Bible Study as a way to study with as little bias as possible, because this is how I wanted to study personally!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, chicken out of, or drift away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of the Cross – Episode 29: Jesus warns His followers that the world will hate them because the world hated Him. Should we respond to hate with hate, or should we follow Jesus’ command to love even when others hate? Discover this and more as Cam continues unpacking this last big teaching leading up to Jesus’ betrayal and arrest.

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