“These things I command you, so that you will love one another. If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:17-18)
Scripture Reading – I John 4:7-21
When we are under attack, our flesh wants to strike back. It’s natural for us to want to defend ourselves when we feel that we have been wronged. Although the world hates us and wants to do us harm, the gospel clearly teaches us that striking back this is not Jesus’ will. In fact, Peter writes: “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (1 Pet. 3:17). Sometimes God wills that we suffer, so that through our suffering, we testify to the power of the gospel. Christians throughout the ages have suffered because they confessed Jesus Christ is Lord. The early Christians, for example, were rounded up and fed to lions. The Apostle Paul was arrested and held in a hideous Roman prison. He was eventually martyred, because of his confession that Jesus Christ is Lord. While awaiting His death, Paul wrote to Timothy urging him to stay faithful to the gospel: “for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal” (2 Tim. 2:9). The world so hated Christ that Paul had been labeled a criminal, and put in the same category as murders, thieves, etc.
Jesus’ words juxtapose two reactions to Christ: the world hates Christ, but we love Christ. Christ is always the dividing line. No one can stay neutral concerning Christ. They will either confess Him as Savior, Redeemer, and Lord, and thereby submit to His rule over their lives, or they will oppose Him. Satan opposed Christ. He stirred up the Jews against Christ so that the city of Jerusalem shouted: “Crucify him,” when given the option to free Jesus from captivity. Satan used the powers of the religious and political establishment in killing Jesus. And what did Jesus do to deserve such a punishment? Nothing. He never sinned against anyone. Jesus was hated by this world simply because this world is under the authority of Satan, the Adversary (1 Pet. 5:8). But because Christ has been set us free from Satan’s grip, we should no longer think in a worldly manner. We should obey His commands and carry out the work that He has appointed us to do rather than fight our persecutors.
The world hates Christ. We know this because of how they exhibit that hatred with us. The same hatred that drove Satan to stir the Jews up in rebellion against Christ is now directed towards us. As Christ’s kingdom advances, Satan and the world will work in tandem to oppose us at every turn. Just look around: people are denied work and/or education, beaten, imprisoned, and bullied simply because they love Christ. They are treated in the same manner that Paul was treated–-as a common criminal. The world hates us because it hates Christ. But we love one another because we love Christ. Our attitude towards Christ—hatred or love—is evident by all in the way we treat others. This is our testimony to the world: as we love others, the world will know that we love Christ. They will know we are Christians by our love!
To love is a command. When we’re being mistreated, we have a choice: to respond with Christ’s love or to respond like the world with hatred and violence. As Christ’s followers, we must respond by accepting our suffering, knowing that it is part of God’s plan for us. Perfect love will be shown and lasting fruit borne only as we are obedient to Christ. It’s the church that should understand what authentic love is. Through Christ’s example, we see a love borne out of sacrifice. When our flesh desires to fight back against those who hurt us, we need to remember Jesus’ command to love, even our enemies. Love, don’t hate. When you experience suffering for the gospel, be patient knowing that God is at work in your suffering to perfect your faith and bring glory to His Name. How are you responding?