How much the world dislikes you might be a good indication of your faith:
While it is often claimed by non-believers that Christianity is a hateful religion and Christians are haters, the opposite is actually the case. Ironically it is those who are saying these things who are the real haters. Their blatant Christophobia routinely results in ugly anti-Christian bigotry, hate and persecution. Any true follower of Christ knows all about this.
And there is nothing surprising about all this. It has been happening for 2000 years now. Indeed, from day one Jesus warned that this would in fact be the case, and the New Testament makes it perfectly clear: believers WILL be hated by the world – that is guaranteed.
I just finished reading the gospel of John again and I was struck by how often this matter is discussed. In a book of just 21 chapters I counted at least 21 passages where Jesus directly spoke about this issue! Over and over again in this gospel we not only read about Jesus warning of these things, but we see plenty of clear examples of this hatred being levelled at Jesus.
And what is the main reason for this hatred by the world? Jesus tells us precisely what it is in John 7:7: “it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.” People do not hate Christ, Christians and Christianity because the claims of Jesus are intellectually untenable, or because of vague things like a commitment to religious pluralism, and so on.
They hate Christ and his followers because they are evil people who do evil things, and the holy and righteous life of Jesus offends them. Jesus said the very same thing in John 3:19-31:
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.
There you have it: people love wickedness and evil, and hate the light. Jesus is the light of the world that exposes evil – that exposes the wicked human heart. No wonder people hated Jesus so much. Another example of this can be seen when Jesus told his disciples about his coming death and that he would be leaving them: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice” (John 16:20).
Yep, the world was certainly glad to see him go. Those who prefer their wicked and sinful lives were always annoyed when Christ was around, and they could not get rid of him soon enough. Things have not changed. The evil world finds Christians who seek to pursue holiness and righteousness to be just as annoying and revolting.
No wonder people still hate his followers two millennia on. The very existence of Christians in a dark and evil world brings offence and animosity to those in the world. They will either become convicted of their sin and turn away from it in faith and repentance to Christ, or they will get even more angry at, and resentful toward, God’s people.
So it should be no surprise at all that when you decide to live fully and consistently for Christ, you will find enmity, opposition, hatred and abuse. This was something Jesus said over and over again. Consider another passage from this gospel – John 15:18-25:
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. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’
In the light of all this, a few things can be said by way of application for today. One clear implication of this is if you are a Christian, but you seem to be experiencing no hatred or animosity whatsoever, you may need to be asking yourself a few hard questions.
If you seem to get on swimmingly with the world, and if all the non-Christians you know are quite pleased with you and happy with you and never find anything objectionable about you, that might mean you should ask whether you are in fact a real Christian!
If you find no contempt, no enmity, and no persecution, then there might be need for you to ask yourself hard questions about your life, and about what being a Christian really means. In light of the clear promises of Jesus that ALL true followers of his will be hated by the world, you might need to take stock of your situation.
Of course we need balance here. No one is suggesting that we go out of our way to be offensive, disagreeable and unlikeable. We are to be salt and light, and we are to share Christ’s love with the world. But that love is not sentimental and sweet mush, but is a love based on truth, on holiness, and on righteousness.
And those are the sorts of things the world just cannot stand. So we do not seek to provoke or upset nonbelievers – that will simply happen naturally as a result of living holy and godly lives that are pleasing to the Lord. And we must bear in mind that sometimes non-Christians dislike us not because of our Christ-likeness, but because of the opposite; we can often just be selfish, grubby people that need to lift our game!
Let me close with a few comments on this matter. In his expository commentary on John, R. Kent Hughes discusses the passage I quoted above from John 15. He says this:
Jesus’ teaching demands that we draw some conclusions. One primary deduction is that smooth sailing is not necessarily a sign that God is pleased with our lives. The absence of persecution may actually indicate something is wrong. Such was the case with Lot. He tired of the separated life in the hills of Palestine and pitched his tents near Sodom until finally he was firmly entrenched in the life of the city, and when the day of judgment came, the angels commanded him to go to his relatives in the city with the message that judgment was coming. But as Scripture records, “He seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting” (Genesis 19:14). He had lost his credibility along the way.
Most people are not so crass. Rather, they try to find a comfortable spot between the extremes of a godly life and a sinful one – and they achieve this at the cost of their lives. They prefer a smooth sea to being possessed by God! They go through life with little difficulty because they have accommodated themselves to the world.
At the same time, persecution is not necessarily a sign of God’s blessing. The godly are not under the sword at all times. Proverbs 16:7 says, “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” That is true, though we never completely escape the enmity of the world system.
We must also remember that some of the persecution Christians endure is because of their own sin. . . . Sometimes we are persecuted because of our stupidity, rudeness, annoying personality, or false piety. Persecution is not necessarily a sign that we are following Christ!
A life pleasing to God is a life that by example, word, and deed demonstrates the righteousness of Christ. It thereby condemns the world, and as a result the believer is in some way persecuted. Consider Daniel, the only person in Scripture of whom much is written but who has no recorded sin. He was an exemplary man, so much so that the world system tried to kill him.
One concluding thought that is worth sharing comes from the co-founder of the Salvation Army, Catherine Booth, who along with her husband knew all about the hatred of the world:
Opposition! It is a bad sign for the Christianity of this day that it provokes so little opposition. If there were no other evidence of it being wrong, I should know from that. When the Church and the world can jog along together comfortably, you may be sure there is something wrong. The world has not altered. Its spirit is exactly the same as it ever was, and if Christians were equally faithful and devoted to the Lord, and separated from the world, living so that their lives were a reproof to all ungodliness, the world would hate them as much as it ever did. It is the Church that has altered, not the world.