John 15:18-25 / The World Hates the Disciples

March 17, 2020

Ray Galea

I hate you! Hate is such a strong word isn’t it? Have you ever told someone that you hate them? Have you ever been told that someone hates you? I remember telling my mum when I was kid and I couldn’t get what I wanted – “I hate you!!” Or friend groups telling someone in school “I hate you.” That feeling of being on the outer, being the unaccepted person, is horrible. It’s the opposite of love.

In the passage just before this, Jesus was telling his disciples, this is the big thing I want you to do, love each other as the father loves me, so I have loved you, love one another and you’ll remain in that love. Then, the very next thing he says is: “you’re going to be hated.” Jesus has been preparing his disciples for his departure. He’s just been telling them, all the love Jesus has with his father, all the joy, all the benefits of being in a perfect relationship with God will be theirs. Everything that’s true of Jesus, in his relationship with his Father, is true of those who trust Jesus, but not only is it true that we get what Jesus gets from the Father-LOVE, but, John 15:18 tells us that we also get what He got from the world–hate!

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first…” (NIV)

From the beginning of John’s Gospel, way back in John 1:3 we have been shown that the world is against God. 

Though the world was made by him and through Him, when he came into the world the world didn’t want him.. it didn’t accept him.. it wouldn’t receive him”

John 1:4 says – “Jesus was the life and light of the world.” Then verse 5 says “That light shines in the darkness” referring to the world as darkness and yet the darkness, the world, didn’t understand it. The world had no place for its maker. Then in chapter 3:19-20 John summarises the reason the world hates Jesus 

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. (NIV) 

My sister has this bird who haunts her at her back door every day! She can’t go outside to hang the washing out, or feed the cat, without this bird flying in and swooping her head! She keeps a broom and a hat by the back door now to protect herself when she goes outside, she keeps saying “I have no idea why this bird keeps coming at me but it’s so annoying!” It’s gotten so bad that her husband, who’s an illustrator, made a comic story out of it!

But why do birds swoop? They swoop to protect their nests because they think every other moving thing is out to get them! They attack out of protection. People hate Jesus, because his very reality and presence causes people to realise they’re guilty! And they don’t like that! The truth hurts. Like a bird who swoops and attacks people in order to protect their nest, people hate and attack Jesus and his followers in order to protect their own sinfulness and brokenness. A horrible sad reality, which was my reality until I was willing to see it.

You might say, OK I get why people would feel like that towards Jesus, but I’m not Jesus, I’m just like everyone else so why would they hate me? John 15:19 gives us the answer

If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (NIV)

If you belonged to the world, they’d love you, but He says – you don’t! That’s why they hate you! 

Jesus has chosen us from the world, rescued us out of the world, out of that darkness, out of our hopeless state, brought us into a relationship with himself, chosen us that we might be different from the world, united us to Himself that we might be his representatives in the world and for that reason, the world hates us! The very fact that we’ve been shifted from being a part of the world to being a partner with God is why the world hates us! 

Here is Julia’s story: “I lived a pretty messy life before I turned to Jesus. When I first became a Christian, I started posting things on facebook about God’s forgiveness and how glad I was to be a Christian. I thought people I knew would really want what I had found in God. That they’d want to know more, that they’d be happy for me. But a friend who used to see me at parties and clubs and knew what I was like – she got really angry with me and sent me some messages saying: “How can you think you can just change and be someone else…?” She shared how she wanted to change her life, she wanted to turn back to God, but felt like she couldn’t and she saw that I had and it made her angry that I was claiming to be able to give up on that old life and live a new one. She was angry that I was claiming I could be forgiven for my old life and she hated me for nothing that I had done to her, only what I was claiming to be.

That’s how it is for every one of us who trust in Jesus and live our lives for Him. The world around us hates us because it leaves them feeling guilty… If you honestly and courageously live for Jesus, the world will hate you. It’s just as the Apostle Paul told young Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:12.

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (NIV)

Wow, that’s hard to hear, but friends, let me tell you, it’s actually freeing to hear that! Let go of the desire to be loved by the world. It is a burden, God never asked us to carry. If and when we are able to grasp this truth, it’s a mind-shift and it’s liberating! 

This is often where our stress in evangelism comes from. It’s why we worry so much about how we’re connecting with our friends and family and work friends and school friends because we wrongly think that our task is to get them to love us! Of course, we want to represent Jesus well, we don’t want to upset people, just for the sake of it. We want to be good examples. We want people to know and love God. But we too often live with this idea that people will only really want to know God, when they love me! We believe that lie and when we live with that lie, we constantly compromise our faith.

It’s not about God’s truth anymore, but about becoming like other people so they accept me. It becomes about impressing people with my abilities, with my morals, with my wisdom, with my…[fill in the blank].

Let me give you a personal example: When the whole same sex marriage debate was going on and the voting thing came out, my wife Sally and I were living in Newtown and Sally was a member of the Newtown Community facebook group. Someone thought they’d try to be civil and post on the group saying: “It’s ok to vote no” And that person got absolutely slammed by every other person on the group.The group admin ended up saying, if you disagree at all with same sex marriage, you’re not welcome in this group and no one even wants you in the Newtown community! It was nuts! Around that time, I had a friend post on facebook, saying – “If anyone has a good argument, that’s not religious, as to why she should vote “NO” she’d love to hear it” So I thought, OK I have to say something here because there are good arguments! 

That day I was having lunch with an old minister and he’s a super smart guy, I was telling him he needs to write a piece for the rest of us, outlining all the scientific and social reasons why marriage should remain between a man and a woman because he knows all the data and knows how to write things well. And he stopped me and said “hang on, you’re looking for a worldly argument to win them over to your worldly view, but our argument is a God argument! They don’t like what we say precisely because it’s what God says. And they’re never going to like it, unless they agree with God.” He was absolutely right, I wanted to have a nice argument for my friend to see that us Christians are ok, that we’ve got great wisdom to share, but I was compromising my faith for love from the world, I wanted to win them over to me, to an argument, not to God.

Jesus says here “you don’t belong to them anymore. You belong to me. But because of that, they won’t love you–they’ll hate you! Just as they hated me! Not because of anything particular you’ve done, but who you’ve become!” Free yourself from the pursuit of being accepted by the world, from being loved by the world, it’s not your reality! You have a better reality! A better love, a better cause, a better future. 

How would this week look different for you if you were less concerned with people loving and accepting you, but were content in God’s love and knew representing Jesus would stir people? If you remove the need to be loved by others, how different does your witness look to people at work? In your family, at school, at the shops?

Have you ever heard someone say – or said it yourself – “don’t shoot me, I’m just the messenger?” Jesus says, in our case, there’s no separating the messenger from the message sender. John 15:20-21 

Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. (NIV)

If you’re a new Christian or checking out Jesus for the first time, this is a really important thing for you to get your head around. You need to be clear on what a relationship with Jesus will mean for your relationship with our world. Christianity has been the most persecuted and hated community in history from its very beginning! Different countries express their hate in different ways, in some parts of the world it’s physical harm, torture, death, imprisonment and laws made against Christians.

Open Doors is an organisation committed to supporting persecuted Christians around the world. Here are some of what’s on the home page of their website: 

  • A woman in India watches as her sister is dragged off by Hindu nationalists. She doesn’t know if her sister is alive or dead.
  • A man in a North Korean prison camp is shaken awake after being beaten unconscious; the beatings begin again. 
  • A woman in Nigeria runs for her life. She has escaped from Boko Haram, who kidnapped her. She is pregnant, and when she returns home, her community will reject her and her baby.
  • A group of children are laughing and talking as they come down to their church’s sanctuary after eating together. Instantly, many of them are killed by a bomb blast. It’s Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka.

They’re all in completely different places, but they hold one thing in common, their faith in Jesus! And because of that, they’re hated and persecuted and treated like animals. In Australia we don’t cop it as harshly at the moment, some do, but generally we don’t, but for us it’s in the way our communities try to silence us and isolate us from bringing God into their view.

  • It’s when your family member says – “listen, I’m happy you believe in something just don’t force it on the rest of us” 
  • It’s when the school says, sorry we can’t start Scripture classes this term because we’re still working out our class room situation. 
  • It’s when your work place sends around joking emails about how stupid people would be to believe in God. 
  • It’s when your teacher ridicules you in front of the class for being the only one who wants to wait till they’re married to have sex.
  • It’s when you try to give out invitations to the Mark Drama at Rooty Hill station but the person says ‘no’, and says they can’t talk because their friend is here and then starts walking over to a car that’s clearly not their friend’s car.

It’s what happened to a guy in one of our morning services here, when his boss wanted him to commit fraud for their company and if he didn’t, he said he might as well quit, his wife was pregnant with their second child, they had bills to pay. What would you do? Compromise? Or be faithful and be hated. He quit! And it doesn’t always happen, but God graciously provided him a job soon after, that was much better than the one he had. 

A guy in my last church works for Sydney trains, Sam. They do big 12hr shifts in their job and no one likes doing the night shift. So, what they do is the day shift guys get all their stuff done during the day so the others can all go in at night and just sleep through the shift. They all agree to do it together, even the managers, and so they don’t bother sleeping during the day because they know they can sleep at night while they’re on shift. 

Now Sam got asked to do the night shift, but he didn’t want to do the wrong thing with them. So, he was going in at night and getting all this stuff done and the other guys were getting mad at him because they were starting to look bad. People higher up started asking questions.

Now they know Sam’s a Christian as he often talked to them about God. So one of the managers came and said to him “Mate, why are you doing this? You’re upsetting people. Why can’t you just shut up about it. You’re not making any friends this way” And he said “I’m just trying to do the right thing! I’m trying to be honest!” And the boss said – “Well you better find another word for what you’re doing, because honesty’s not helping anyone!” 

He had a choice, be loved by his work mates, or be loved by God. He reflected “It’s hard, but what does it tell them about God if I’m willing to keep doing it even though they’re mad at me? It shows them that my God is worth it! I just want to please God, not to try to get myself into heaven, but because of what Jesus did for me!”

Persecution and hate coming our way is inevitable if we’re living a life of holiness and faithfulness to God. But, losing the lie that the world was ever going to love us, is the only way to be content in God’s love in the midst of persecution.

Only when we realise the world’s love is partial, it’s demanding, it’s flippant, it’s fleeting, 

Only when we realise God’s love is eternal, it’s forgiving, it’s constant, it’s amazing, 

Only when we realise what God has given, for us to have that love, that he was willing to give himself, to be hated for us, to be persecuted for us, to be put to death for us… 

Only when we realise no one has greater love than this, that they lay down their life for their friends… 

Only when we grasp, God’s undying love for us will we have the courage to stand in the face of opposition and not be swayed by the hate this world pours out on us. 

We don’t need to compromise our faithfulness for others to accept God. Look at verse 20.

If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. (NIV)

What the world needs from us is God’s truth, not our compromise, faithfulness is what makes Jesus’ word seem trustworthy. The reality is, God knows the heart, and only he can move a person out of their darkness. Nothing impressive we do can move a person’s heart, it relies on them coming face-to-face with the truth about Jesus and us praying and trusting that the same message that changed our hearts from hating God to loving Him will do its powerful work in others too.

Now I want to give the Apostle Peter the last word here. He was there when Jesus said this, then he saw Jesus persecuted for him, and he himself faced intense persecution through his life, even to the point of death. Listen to how he reflects in 1 Peter 4 on persecution in the life of a believer as he writes to a bunch of people facing persecution for their faith. Verses 12-16

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. (NIV)