Anytime some speaks about why the Church is dying in America, you can expect one of two typical reactions. The first one is people agreeing wholeheartedly as they identify with their own personal problems in the Church. The second is usually a more mean-spirited response that centers around the idea that “if The World™ likes the Church, we must be doing something wrong because The World™ is supposed to hate us.”
(I’m putting a ™ symbol with “The World™” because it seems like every person that uses that term has a different definition that may include other Christians they don’t agree with – so I just want to give credit for creating a non-Biblical idea where credit is due after all)
Ever wonder what God was thinking by creating an organization that The World™ mostly automatically hates? I mean, we say that God loves every single person in the world (the world that Jesus refers to, that is), but then creates a Church that most people are going to hate?
Or did Jesus really teach that we have to expect hate no matter what?
The main scripture used to support the idea that we will be guaranteed hatred is John 15:18-25. I think there are several things many people miss about this passage:
- It starts with the world “if”. Jesus is only telling you the reason why the world hates you IF it does. But that is not a guarantee that it will.
- The next part of the passage starts with another “if” – “if you belonged to the world.” Again, not a guarantee that you will be hated – just a recognition of the fact that the world would love you automatically if you belonged to it.
- We then see Jesus say “this is why the world hates you” which some take to be a guarantee. Seeing that it is in the context of so many “ifs”, many it is really just referring back to the first scenario: “IF the world hates you.” It seems to be more of a comfort for those that are being hated, not a guarantee that we will all be hated.
- This same passage then says that “if they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” They being the world. Wouldn’t you say its kind of hard to say that hatred is guaranteed from those that also might also follow Christ’s teachings.
To me, what we have in this scripture are three things. First, Jesus is telling us that people hate Him because His miracles make them feel guilty for their sin. Secondly, IF we also end up facing hatred because people feel guilty over the miracles of Jesus, then it is because they hated the One that performed those miracles in the first place (how do we know Jesus is referring to His miracles? Because He said “If I had not done among them the works no one else did”). Finally, Jesus tells us that being of the world guarantees us that we will be loved by the world – but not that it is THE only way to be loved by the World.
Also take a closer look at what versus 21-25 are telling us. Jesus is describing how people have seen His miracles and know they really happened but don’t want to repent of their sins and therefore hate Him because they know the Truth and yet do not follow it.
This is the real source of the hatred: people that have this nagging feeling that Jesus is real, but don’t want to deal with their sins and therefore live in denial of what they know deep down… and then hate Christians for reminding them of that. This certainly happens often to all of us. Even if you aren’t a Christian, maybe you are a healthy person and you have several unhealthy people that hate you because they know they should live healthier but just don’t want to give up their vices. We have probably all been on both sides of many issues like this.
However – none of this is a guarantee that we will be hated or a sign that we are doing something really wrong if we aren’t hated by all. You see, in between those that believe in Jesus but refuse to follow and those that will love you if you belong to the World is whole vast host of people that don’t really hate or even know Jesus, or that at least don’t believe in His teachings. They don’t hate you, they don’t persecute you, they don’t accept Christ’s teachings, they don’t fit any of the descriptions in John 15:18-25. They are just a vast sea of humanity that will probably be drawn more by love than hate.
So, the main idea here is that people will hate you IF they first hated God because they recognize that He is true but they don’t want to follow. If they are hating you even though they don’t first hate Jesus, it possibly means that you are outside the conditions of this particular teaching of Christ’s. Maybe they are hating you because they know enough about Jesus to see that you aren’t really representing Him very well?