If the World Hates You…

   Written by on September 21, 2017 at 10:50 am

logo-smith-gregVoice of the Martyrs reports about cases of martyrdom and persecution around the world.  Telling of a church in China, the website records:

Living Stone Church in Guiyang has worshiped openly since 2009, growing to a regular attendance of more than 700 members. The Chinese government has harassed the church since its founding, but the purchase of a new office space for meetings seemed to bring tensions with the government to a new high.

The church’s…co-pastor, Su Tianfu, previously reported that 99 percent of the church’s members have received calls from government officials, pressuring them to leave the church. In addition, church leaders have been continually pressured to join the government-sanctioned Three-Self Church.1

We in the United States are quite blessed to live in a culture where we don’t experience this kind of intense persecution.  Movies like “God’s Not Dead” and “God’s Not Dead 2” underscore that we American Christians can often feel quite persecuted, regardless of the fact that we aren’t being killed on the streets for our faith, or imprisoned for our beliefs.  But what did Jesus have to say about His followers being hated by the world?

In John 15:18,2 Jesus says, “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.”  This word “if” can also be translated as “since,” indicating that Jesus assumed that His followers would indeed be hated.  So it’s not surprising that some Christians feel like the world hates them.  There are basically three possible reasons why some believers might feel that way.

First, some Christians have a persecution complex, and they only think the world hates them.  When I was a child, I was picked on a little bit because I was the kid who brought his Bible to school and went off to the corner of the playground to read it during recess.  I remember one boy calling me a “religious freak.”  Because of this, I felt persecuted.  Maybe at work, your boss has asked you to take down your religious artwork because the company doesn’t want to promote the disunity that religious expression in the workplace can create.  You may feel that Christians are discriminated against because Duck Dynasty got canceled, or Tim Tebow got cut by the Eagles, Broncos, Jets, and Patriots.3  But this isn’t persecution—it’s business.  Persecution is when, as Jesus said in John 16:2-3, “you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God. This is because they have never known the Father or me.”  Persecution is when Boko Haram beheads Christians, or China jails them, or Rome feeds them to lions.  “The world hating you” isn’t when some people dislike you.  When we American Christians exaggerate how much everybody hates us, that’s called a persecution complex.

Second, the world system hates some Christians because they accurately represent Jesus, whom the powers that be despise.  In John 15:19, Jesus says, “The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.”  Being part of the world means following human standards of right and wrong, rather than God’s.  It means following greatness, rather than following goodness.  This is what the Pharisees did, as they sucked up to the power of Rome.  But heaven’s reign isn’t about following the world system.  It’s about caring for the downtrodden and outcast, welcoming refugees and strangers, forgiving those who have harmed you, loving your enemies, speaking up for the oppressed, defending the weak, providing for the poor, and helping the hurting.  It’s about challenging those who value money over mercy, rules over relationship, and convenience over justice.  So if the world hates you because you look too much like Jesus—then good!  You’re doing the right thing.  Jesus says in Matthew 5:10, “God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”

Third, the world hates some Christians because, well, they’re jerks.  Some people who call themselves Christians are anything but followers of Jesus.  They may be church members or attenders, but they have never let the teachings of Jesus impact their behavior, and they certainly don’t have the love of Jesus in their hearts.  They are bitter, uncaring, judgmental, mean-spirited, power-hungry people who are part of a social club called the Church. The world hates people like that, and can spot fakes a mile away.  So just because the world hates you, that doesn’t mean you reflect Jesus—it might be the opposite.  Maybe you’re just a jerk in Christian clothing.  Time to repent of false religion and find a relationship with Jesus that truly transforms you.

In John 15:26-16:1, Jesus says, “But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. And you must also testify about me because you have been with me from the beginning of my ministry.  I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith.”  Jesus promises that He will be with us, in the person of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit will comfort and teach us, giving us courage for each day so that we will keep the faith.  Jesus says in John 16:33, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” 

So if you ever get to feeling like everybody hates you, it’s best to ask why.  There are good and bad reasons why people might hate you—and maybe they don’t hate you at all.  But you can be sure that if you let Jesus transform you by His love, He will be with you no matter what the world says or does.

(Endnotes)

1 The Voice of the Martyrs. April 17, 2017.  China:  Jailed Pastor Gravely Ill.    https://www.persecution.com/public/newsroom.aspx?story_ID=%3d383439.  August 10, 2017.

2 Scripture quotations taken from the NLT.

3 For a poignant article on Tim Tebow, read: Redeeming God.  Myers, Jeremy. “Why the Eagles Cut Tim Tebow.”  https://redeeminggod.com/tim-tebow-stop-praying/   August 10, 2017.

© 2017 by Gregory T. Smith.
Reprinted with permission
revgregsmith.blogspot.com

About Greg Smith

Greg Smith is a Baptist minister who has served churches in Central and Southside Virginia. He lives in Halifax County, VA with his wife and children. To read more of Greg’s writings check out his blog at revgregsmith.blogspot.com.

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