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John 15:18-19, NIV18 "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you."
January 10, 2012It's hard I think for people in the United States to identify with these words about the world hating us. Most people we come into contact with do not hate Christians. Yet we don't have to go far beyond our borders to find people who do hate us, not because of Jesus, but probably more frequently for something related to wealth--our wealth and their lack of it. And if we travel into other parts of the world we may find people who hate us for one reason only, because we are Christian in the broad sense of that word.
But I don't think our situation today in America is what Jesus was talking about. He is instructing his disciples as he is about to leave them. He will be tried, convicted, and then crucified for his "crimes." For blasphemy, for speaking truth to power, for being a trouble maker, for not conforming to the traditional practices of the religion into which he was born. Jesus called the reaction of the authorities hatred. Because the "world" hated him, he knew his disciples would also be hated.
A square peg does not fit into a round hole. In the same way his disciples no longer fit into the prescribed mold of their religion, or their community. They did not belong.
This is an issue present with us today. As a teenager I was instructed not to conform to anything which denied my faith in Jesus. Even if I had to stand alone, I was to be firm in my commitment.
Standing firm is expressed in many ways. For some, it means dressing in a certain way that sets them apart. For others, it means abstaining from certain behaviors or habits. Most of us don't like to stand alone, so we form small groups that believe as we do. In Lancaster County where I live these groups are easily recognizable.
Then there are other Christians who put more emphasis on right beliefs. These believers range from one extreme to the other, and when their beliefs are scrutinized by "the world", they are often ridiculed. A group on one end of the spectrum may even hate, through word or deed, those at the opposite end . Social issues also evoke heated reactions when there is a litmus test to determine if someone believes the right thing.
Once I matured beyond my teenage years I became much more moderate and seemed to avoid taking a stand that would set me apart. The pendulum swung too far in the other direction. I didn't want anyone to hate or mock me or my beliefs.
Jesus admonished his disciples to stand out, not blend in. They belonged to him and that should make them different from those who rejected Jesus. They were to be light in a dark world.
Bringing light into the darkness is open to various interpretations. And each of us needs to determine how to do that. Will it invoke hate, love, or indifference? Probably some of each.
I could also argue that Jesus said, "If or When the world hates you . . ." That would make these words a statement of comfort. Remember, if/when you are attacked for your faith, that Jesus was treated the same way. If/When you feel like you don't belong, know that you do belong to Jesus.
John 15:20-21, NIV20 "Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me."
January 11, 2012Don't expect to be treated any better than they treated Jesus. That's a sobering statement. But there was a lot more to his life than his crucifixion. Lots of people enjoyed being near Jesus, loved to listen to his stories and watch how he interacted with people.
These disciples would have many more good experiences than bad ones. But if/when the persecution comes, remember they persecuted Jesus also. Because those who persecute do not know the Father who loved the world so much that he sent his beloved son to bring everlasting life to all who believe. Since they did not know the Father, they did not recognize the Son either.
John 15:22-25, NIV22 "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. 23 He who hates me hates my Father as well. 24 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. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason.'"
January 11, 2012Now here's the tragic part. There's no guilt if you don't know, but if you know, and ignore what you know, then you are guilty. Sadly, Jesus is expressing the awful fact that these people who hate him will have no excuse. They have heard the good news. They have seen the miracles--those good and wonderful works of God. Yet they have refused God's messenger. Not only did they refuse to believe, they are plotting his death.
What more can Jesus do than to find comfort in the ancient Scriptures. "They hated me without a cause." Words not original with Jesus. He was not the first to be hated because he conveyed God's message to God's people. He will not be the last.
John 16:1-4, NIV1 "All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4 I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you."
January 12, 2012
Jesus wants to be the one to tell his disciples these things. It would be better that way, then for them to find out later and feel like Jesus had betrayed them. Being put out of the synagogue was not a new occurrence for these disciples. They had already seen that some of the people Jesus had healed were tossed out because they believed in the one who healed them.
But Jesus doesn't stop there. He raises the possibility that the disciples will be killed by people who think they are doing God a favor by doing so! What an eye opener that is. It was not only a possibility, in all likelihood it would happen to them. Jesus knew this, and he wanted to tell his disciples now, upfront, so they would not be surprised, alarmed, mystified, and unable to explain what or why these things were happening to them.
Jesus explained why. We could identify many possible reasons--a struggle for power and authority, threats to the status quo, fear, etc. But Jesus said the bottom line, the great underlying reason, is that they "knew neither him nor his Father." They had failed to recognize God in their midst as Jesus walked among them. Even the good deeds and works of God which he did daily, did not convince them. They were blind and deaf and remained that way to the end.
Therefore, the disciples were not to be alarmed, or feel misled by Jesus. He was telling them now because while he was with them they were safe. But now that Jesus was leaving them, their lives would eventually be in danger. When that time came, the disciples were not to doubt and lose their faith in him. Instead he gave this warning, so that when the time came they would continue to abide in the vine, and remain firm in their belief that they were sent by God to bear fruit by bringing their testimony to people everywhere.We hear over and over again in these chapters that it does not matter if Jesus is dead or with them in person, they would continue to live in him. Their future joy and happiness did not require a physical Jesus. It did require that they continue to abide in him, and continue to bear fruit for the kingdom.