“If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” John 15:18
(Photo compliments of Abby Vencil of Solivagant Photography at https://www.facebook.com/thequietphotographer)
Here are You and Your apostles. And this is getting to be a really tough time. You are preparing them for the things to come. They see how the religious leaders are treating You. You’ve been telling them of Your coming persecution and You’re preparing them for the road ahead. You’ve just prepared them with the warm and cozy stuff, with the “love stuff.” And that was needed first, because until we realize the depth of Your love for us and come to the point of loving You back, until we see our absolute dependency on Your love and our need to be in it, we won’t make it through the real part of life in You because it’s a hard life and it really takes guts. But if You are Life, and life is hard, then all the hardness is worth it just to know You and be known by You.
See, there is that “if” again. And “if You are life” doesn’t imply that You are not Life. It’s being used here to imply the fact or condition that You are life. It could be interpreted better to our thinking as “Since You are life…” these other conditions are true also. Which takes me to today’s verse.
“If the world hates you…” It’s not a possibiltiy that the world will hate believers, it’s a condition. This little Greek word, “ei”, is used “when anything is simply and generally assumed to be, or to be done, or to have been done, or to be about to be done.” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon) It expresses “a condition, thought of as real, or to denote assumptions” (HELPS Word Studies) In other words, I can assume this to be true. It “is a first class conditional marker indicating that what follows is a fulfilled condition.” (Precept Austin) Elsewhere in his commentary, Precept Austin states, “[t]he ‘if’ (ei) in this sentence does not imply doubt but is what is referred to as a ‘first class condition’ which in plain English means that the [what follows is] assumed to be true. One can usually translate first class conditional statements with ‘since’.
It’s not a matter that the world might hate us. When we are truly identified with You, Jesus, and all Your ways, the world will hate us. James unequivically states, “Don’t you know that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” Paul tells us that “the carnal (worldly) mind is enmity against God.” He tells us again in Ephesians, “at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light…”
There is an enmity between darkness and light. They can’t coexist; they can’t exist at the same time. By their nature it is impossible. If there is light, darkness must flee into the shadows. Where there is darkness, it is because of the absence of light.
So, You’ve prepared Your apostles and us with Your love. You’ve gone gentle on us and now You introduce the rough stuff. You’ve already told us that we shouldn’t expect to be treated differently than our Master. And here You are preparing us for it.
I checked out a sermon on this verse by Alexander Maclaren. Here’s what he had to share. “[O]ur Lord is here laying down a universal statement of the permanent condition of things; and there is no more reason for restricting the force of these words to the original hearers of them than there is for restricting the force of any of the rest of this wonderful discourse. ‘The world’ will be in antagonism to the Church until the world ceases to be a world, because it obeys the King; and then, and not till then, will it cease to be hostile to His subjects…He puts it in the shape of a ‘suppose that,’ not because there is any doubt, but in order to alleviate the pain of the impression which He desires to make. He says, ‘If the world hates,’ not ‘if the world hate’; and the tense of the original shows that, whilst the form of the statement is hypothetical, the substance of it is prophetic…The very language carries with it the implication of necessary and continual antagonism. For what is ‘the world,’ in this context, but the aggregate of men, who have no share in the love and life that flow from Jesus Christ? Necessarily they constitute a unity, whatever diversities there may be amongst them, and necessarily, that unity in its banded phalanx is in antagonism, in some measure, to those who constitute the other unity, which holds by Christ, and has been drawn by Him from ‘out of the world.’…If we share Christ’s life, we must, necessarily, in some measure, share His fate. It is the typical example of what the world thinks of, and does to, goodness. And all who have ‘the Spirit of life which was in Jesus Christ’ for the animating principle of their lives, will, just in the measure in which they possess it, come under the same influences which carried Him to the Cross. In a world like this, it is impossible for a man to ‘love righteousness and hate iniquity,’ and to order his life accordingly, without treading on somebody’s corns; being a rebuke to the opposite course of conduct, either interfering with men’s self-complacency or with their interests. From the beginning the blind world has repaid goodness by antagonism and contempt…”
He continues. “There are two groups, and the fundamental principles that underlie each are in deadly antagonism. In the measure in which you and I are Christians we are in direct opposition to all the maxims which rule the world and make it a world. What we believe to be precious it regards as of no account. What we believe to be fundamental truth it passes by as of little importance. Much which we feel to be wrong it regards as good… We and it stand in diametrical opposition of thought about God, about self, about duty, about life, about death, about the future; and that opposition goes right down to the bottom of things. However it may be covered over, there is a gulf… ‘If ye were of the world, the world would love its own.’ If it loves you, it is because ye are of it…A half-Christianised world and a more than half-secularised Church get on well together…There is no need whatever that there should be any antagonism at all between a godless world and hosts of professing Christians. If you want to escape the hostility drop your flag, button your coat over the badge that shows that you belong to Christ, and do the things that the people round about you do, and you will have a perfectly easy and undisturbed life….Reckon it as a sign and test of true union with Jesus Christ. And so, if ever, by reason of our passing at the call of duty or benevolence outside the circle of those who sympathise with our faith and fundamental ideas, we encounter it more manifestly than when we ‘dwell among our own people,’ let us count the ‘reproach of Christ’ as a treasure to be proud of, and to be guarded…Meet this antagonism by not dropping your standard one inch….meet hostility with unmoved, patient, Christlike, and Christ-derived love and sympathy.” (Alexander Maclaren)
As a believer, as a Christian, I am different. I have an identity that is separate from the world. I have an identity that is in You, Jesus. The world is not in You. It is in opposition to You. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to me when my friends and family don’t understand. But what does come as a surprise to me is people who profess they are believers also, but they don’t understand. When they seem to be the persecutors, this really throws me for a temporary loop.
But then I hear Your words. “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.” So, here’s this endless antagonism between me and the world, between every believer and the world. And the more I choose Your way, the more I choose You, the more antagonism I can expect to come up against. But then I have a choice. Do I stay in You and oppose the world, or do I ease up, and adopt some of the world’s ways so it’s not so rough?
It’s a sad thing to receive persecution from a fellow believer. It’s as sad as an unequally yoked marriage. The unity that should exist, can’t. There’s a rift. And buying into the world instead of totally into You, Jesus, causes a terrible rift. It’s so refreshing to sit down with another believer and hear that they are experiencing the same struggles I am. And it’s not at all about griping together. It’s all about sharing because we want so much more of You, Jesus, but there is opposition all around us. But here You are preparing me, preparing us for this moment so it won’t catch us by surprise.
Opposition, persecution, negativity, will come. I can’t avoid it. It’s a part of my growing and my faith process. It’s a part of being a believer. It’s hard. It’s pressure. It makes me cry sometimes. It makes me think about things. It makes me understand You more and draw closer to You. It divides the sheep from the goats. It divides the worldly from the true believers. I can count on opposition to come, pretty steadily. But even more importantly, I can count on You to bring me through victoriously as long as I remain in You, as long as I am identified in You and choose Your way.
See, by Your choosing me, You gave me the ability to choose You. As I keep myself in You, You keep me. You love me more than the world hates me. Your pull on me is way stronger. Your keeping power is without limit. Your love is beyond satisfaction. Your overflowing expectations way outweigh the expectations of negativity from the world. When I am making decisions in You, when I am living in You, and my life represents Your will, then I can expect the world to treat me like it treated You. But, I can also expect the Father to treat me like He treated You. See, You didn’t just make us overcomers. You were the first Overcomer. “To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne.” (Revelation 3:21) And I don’t want to stop there. Because You overcame, You gave us the power to overcome. This is the power to love You more than everything, including this world. “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (Revelation 12:11)
Lord, the more I determine that Your Word is true and that I will believe It and live It, the more opposition I receive. But the more I follow Your Word, the more I trust and do, the more I draw closer to You, the more I want of You, the more risks in You I want to take, the more foreign the world’s ways look, even those the church has adopted. I’m understanding this animosity. I don’t like it, but I understand, and I see how You can use it for my benefit, to make me take a stand for You, to get me off the fence, and fully on Your side. So, my prayer today, Lord, is as You continue to establish me in You and separate me from worldly thinking and ways, let it bring conviction on other people’s hearts, others who see. Let us each ask ourself whose side we are really on? If I call myself a believer, am I living like one? Am I doing hard things where I’m coming up against opposition. Or am I just gliding along where it’s easy and comfortable? Whose love is evident in my life? The world’s or Yours? Do I have something to boast about You in? Or am I always boasting about someone else? Would I risk absolutely everything in You because I trust You that much? Or am I risking nothing because I trust You little? Am I at enmity with the world or with You? Don’t let me just ask You for the guts to love You and serve You with abandon, but let me risk it all just to develop them.