Jesus’ final word on agape was tell his followers, “I am enjoining these things to you in order that you would love one another.” They would need this love from one another because, Jesus said to them, the world would hate them.
Hated Because in Conflict with the World
Jesus wanted his disciples to know, and all believers through them, what to expect from the world around them, now that Jesus would be going.
They would be hated.
When you and I move forward in the strategic positions God has placed us in, we are actually entering into a spiritual battle. We are, in a sense, infiltrating enemy territory bringing resources—the good news of the cross, and God’s love—to set captives free.
In this simile, the enemy is not people at all. The enemy is all that keeps people from responding to God.
First of all, Jesus explained, the disciples (and we) needed to expect facing some opposition. The world hated Jesus, why would the world welcome those in whom Jesus lives?
Hit the pause button, please!
I have, over the years, listened as people described episode after episode of what they felt was spiritual opposition, with a real lack of self-awareness. There are times when you and I can offend because we come across as aggressive, or insensitive, prideful, or pointy-fingered judgmental.
Not all push-back is spiritual opposition. Some things are offensive to anybody, the world and God alike. It is when the display of God’s love and the fruit of God’s Spirit offend that we do not take it personally. This kind of hostility is directed at the Lord Jesus Christ, and you and I take the hit because the Lord has made God’s home within our inner beings.
Hated Because of a New Paradigm
Secondly, Jesus calls every believer out of the world’s system and puts them into a new system, the kingdom of God.
If you and I were still operating by the world’s system, then we would not be trying to bring the gospel of freedom and life into a world that already thinks it is free and alive.
We would be comfortable.
But since we are in the kingdom of God, and are passionately committed to advancing God’s kingdom, we are going to meet with resistance.
Still, it is worth it. This kind of hostility is not going to be universal.
Be mindful of the word [logos] that I spoke to you: “A servant is not greater than their lord,” if they persecuted me then they will persecute you, if they keep and heed my word (logos) then they will keep and heed your own.Jesus to his disciples, John 15:20
The same reactions Jesus got, his disciples would get, and you and I will get too.
Some people will persecute, but others will recognize the Shepherd’s voice, and they will respond gladly.
Later, the Apostle Paul would describe it this way,
Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him.
For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.Apostle Paul, 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 (NRSV)
Hated Because of Godlessness
Think about the first time you really got it. It clicked for you and you understood how very much God loves you, how eager the Lord is to enfold you in God’s forgiveness and make you a new person. Someone had to get that message to you. Now you have the chance to get that message to others who do not realize it, but they have been longing all their lives to hear it.
Jesus now gave a third reason for the world’s hatred.
But rather, all these things they will do to you all because of my name, because they have not seen nor perceived the One who sent me.Jesus, John 15:21
It is shocking to think that the people Jesus was describing here were the religious leaders of his day, the temple authorities, teachers of the law, and scribes.
If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be having sin. But now they do not have a pretext concerning their sin. Who hates me also hates my Father. If I had not done the deeds among them that not even one other did, they would not be having sin, but now therefore they have seen and perceived and also they have hated me as well as my Father.Jesus, John 15:22-24
Hated Because Hatred Was Prophesied
Lastly, Jesus said, this kind of hatred and opposition was prophesied. It is inevitable.
But rather, in order that the word [logos] would be fulfilled in their Law that, “They hated me without a cause.”Jesus, John 15:25
There are actually three different Psalms Jesus could have been referring to—Psalms 35:19, 69:4, and 109:3. All three Psalms are attributed to Jesus’ ancestor, King David, so it is possible Jesus meant all of these references as an ongoing experience of persecution.
Still, even though this hatred and opposition would come, Jesus expected the disciples, and all believers, to testify about him. He had chosen them for this very reason.
Whenever the Paraclete comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth who comes forth from the Father, this one will testify concerning me—and you all also testify, because you are with me from the beginning.Jesus, John 15:26-27
The biggest danger the disciples were going to face was to fall away from the mission of spreading the gospel, and go back to their quiet lives of fishing, tax collecting, and the other pursuits they had before they met Jesus
I have said these things to you in order that you will not be hindered or enticed.Jesus, John 16:1
Jesus was enjoining them ahead of time not to give up. Though they would find themselves ejected from their synagogues, shunned, cut off from family and community, and even be killed by those who thought they were doing God a favor . . . Persevere. Endure.
Now Jesus was leaving them, they needed this warning because they would have to face the full force of the world’s hatred.
The more one is like Christ, the more one can expect a strong response.
Fruitfulness is costly in this life, but has great reward in heaven.
The pressure and pain of opposition can be heavy. But these are signs that you and I are bearing fruit, more fruit, and much fruit.
How should we respond to persecution?
- We could run away and join like-minded people.
- We could withdraw from the public sphere entirely, only deal with Christians.
- We could keep our Christianity under cover, just not say anything—be crypto-Christians.
- We could try to retaliate.
But Jesus says the right response is to continue to testify.
[Fragrance of a flower | Pixabay]