“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. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” (John 15:18-21)
Of the many truthful promises and statements Jesus made, and were recorded in all four gospels, the one’s contained in today’s text are certainly some of the most thought provoking. It should cause us to pause when evaluating our efforts to minister to those belonging to the fallen culture and their responses to the gospel.
There have been times when in seeking to do good for those in need, the responses by unbelievers to the church’s efforts are less than appreciative. I recall when several churches covenanted together to provide meals for families who had recently lost jobs due to a downturn in the economy. The meals were provided free of cost although a donation was graciously accepted if provided. Various people from several church volunteered to cook, serve and clean up after the dinners were served. One church even provided their fellowship hall for the weekly gathering.
Of those who were fed each week, there were some who became rude because they did not receive as much food as they wanted. These were not the previously mentioned families for they proved truly grateful. Rather, these were those who were regular church visitors looking for a handout. For example, they wanted seconds while others had yet to receive firsts and they became angry because their demands were not met. Unfortunately, this was a frequent occurrence and several workers became discouraged that their efforts to minister to those outside the church was met with less than a grateful attitude.
While these examples pale in comparison to the persecution of believers in various parts of the world, it provides a fitting illustration of what Jesus said in today’s text. Believers should expect hatred from the world rather than gratitude.
When Jesus referred to the world, He spoke of the fallen, ungodly world system of thought and behavior which expresses hatred for God and His servants. Jesus said that if, or since, the world hates believers, it is because the world ultimately hates Him.
Jesus wanted His followers to always remember that His servants were not above their Master. If the world hated Jesus, then remember that the world will hate us. If the world persecuted Jesus, then remember that the world will persecute us. Conversely, those who love Jesus will love, and be loved, by us.
The real reason that the world hates Jesus and His servants, is because at the core of their souls they do not know God. Pastor Burk Parsons writes, “The world cannot help but hate us, because those who are in rebellion against God hate everything that is not also in rebellion against Him. Jesus notes that we should not be surprised when the world hates us for following Him, for they hated Him first. If they hated Him and love us, then we would be greater than Him, but since the servants are not greater than the Master, the world’s hatred of Him guarantees it will hate us (John 15:20–21). We will be despised in many circles for keeping the commandments of Christ.”
This despising may occur at work, at home, at school or even in commentary by panelists on a daily, or late night, talk show. The despising of Christ and His followers is frequent, fervent and sometimes even furious.
John Calvin wrote that, “The gospel cannot be published without instantly driving the world to rage.”
Do you want the world to love you? Then belong to the world and its philosophy of life and living. Otherwise, expect opposition, hostility and hatred because you belong to Christ.
Soli deo Gloria!