The World Hates Faithful Christians
Do Not Be Surprised When the World Hates You
In a recent interview, I heard Pastor John MacArthur say that we are no longer living in a “post-Christian” culture, but an anti-Christian culture. In the west, Christians are no longer merely an annoying nuisance to be put up with; rather, they are increasingly being seen as a threat to cultural and political progress.
Though this may seem “new” to many Christians in the West who have never experienced such a large-scale, full-orbed opposition, it is something that Jesus Himself promised repeatedly throughout His ministry – and especially during the final days before He Himself would be murdered by His spiritual and political enemies.
In John 15, Jesus is preparing His disciples for life and ministry after His departure from this world. After a thorough explanation of, and exhortation to, what bearing fruit to the glory of God will entail, He seamlessly transitions to the inevitability of being hated by those who hate Him, and thus hate the true God:
- “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 its own; but because you are not of the world, but chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19, LSB)
Why will faithful, fruit-bearing Christians be hated by the world? Jesus does not say that they will hate us for being belligerent, pugnacious, or self-righteous. No. Rather, the world will hate us because we represent and reflect Jesus Christ, whom the world supremely hates. Jesus only ever did good while He was in the world, and yet He was so hated that He was conspired against, falsely accused and tried, and shamefully executed on a cross as if He were a guilty criminal.
In fact, Jesus is the supreme illustration of the world’s hatred of God and all that is good. He is the fulfilment and embodiment of the Scripture. Jesus says in v.25:
- “But this happened to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘THEY HATED ME WITHOUT A CAUSE.’” (LSB)
Ultimately, says Jesus, the world hates Him because He, as the true Light of the world, exposes the darkness – sin – of the world:
- “And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light lest his deeds be exposed.” (3:19-20, LSB)
- “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I bear witness about it, that its deeds are evil.” (7:7, LSB)
- “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.” (15:22, LSB)
- “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.” (15:24, LSB)
Over and over, Jesus makes it clear that evil hates good, darkness hates light, wrong hates right.
As Jesus’ disciples embody – by the power of the Holy Spirit – His obedience to the Father, the world will see Christ in them, and therefore hate them as they hated Him, for:
- “A slave is note greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (15:20)
Because those who are called to follow in the steps of the Good Shepherd will themselves experience a measure of His rejection, Jesus’ words are meant to prepare us for the inevitable, lest we think something strange were happening to us when persecution comes:
- “These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling…These things they will do because they did not know the Father or Me. But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them.” (16:1, 3-4, LSB)
The thing about bearing fruit and reflecting light is that it draws attention. This is the subtle temptation many Christians face. If we ‘keep our religion to ourselves,’ no one will hate us or mock us or fire us or cancel us.
But there is much at stake in our obedience in bearing fruit:
First, the Father’s glory, which is the great end for which we exist, bears a direct relation to our fruit:
- “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” (15:8, LSB)
Second, when we cower in silence out of our fear of persecution, we forfeit the great joy that could be ours:
- “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (15:11, LSB)
Third, in our attempts to curry ‘peace’ with the world through compromise, we lose out on the true peace that Jesus alone offers His sheep:
- “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (16:33, LSB)
The choice is ours: will we follow in the steps of the blind man’s cowardly parents (see John 9), who by their compromise forfeited Christ to remain in good favor with the religious and political elite? Or will we - by God's enabling grace - seek God’s glory and our joy and peace, even at the expense of our reputation and lives, and obediently follow Jesus wherever He leads us?
Thankfully, though the world hates the Light, it will not - can not - ultimately “overtake” the Light (1:5, LSB). This was true for our Lord Jesus. And by God’s faithfulness, it will be true for all who “abide in Him.”
Father in heaven, may we be faithful not only to obey Your Word, but to spread it to the ends of the earth, that all the sheep You gave Your Son may also hear, believe, and bear fruit to Your glory. Thank You that Your Son will lose none of the sheep You have given Him, and that even in death we are more than conquerors through the One who loved us and gave Himself for us. Please, hear our prayer and receive our praise. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.