Jesus anticipated that the world would hate him and those who followed his way. I have been reading through the Gospel of John, and this morning I’ve been meditating on these words from Jesus:
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 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 (John 15).
There is something about the Greek word for “hate” here that gets lost in translation. The word we translate as “hate” is μισέω (miseó) in Greek. Hate, in English, means “an intense or passionate dislike for someone/something.” μισέω, on the other hand, assumes a comparison is in play. It is to like something or someone less than something else. It’s to renounce something in favor of something else. We see this at play in Luke 14:26 where Jesus tells his followers they must “hate” their mother, father, brothers and sisters. Jesus is not saying his followers must have intense or passionate dislike towards their families, but must prefer God over their family. To do otherwise is idolatry.
In John 15, when Jesus says the world hates you, but hated Jesus first, he makes it clear that it is because those who follow him were chosen out of the world. This chosenness out of the world creates the basis from which a preference can be made by any one of us: The way of Christ or the way of the world.
Those who hate the way of Christ are really just those who have decided that they prefer the ways of this world more than the way of Christ.
It’s understandable how this happens. When we try and try and try, and pray and pray and pray, that God would deliver us from this or that affliction, and nothing (so we think) happens within the time frame we are willing to give it, we end up hating the way of Christ and accept as a given the way of the world. We huddle with the masses, taking on a form of religion and godliness while rejecting it’s real power (2 Tim. 3:5).
On a person level, I have at various times over the last 20 years reveled in my identity as an addict, preferring that over claiming my identity in Christ. My natural bent was to take comfort in the community I found among those who self-identified as addicts. Here there was no expectation that I live in victory. I placed my faith in a program of recovery more than the God who inspired such programs and desires to redeem me, making me new.
But as I look back at these past two decades, my time of greatest victory has only come when I clung to Christ and his words of life more than the ways of the world. It’s only come about when I confessed that my greatest problem is not that I’m an addict but that I’m a sinner, and trusted in a God who makes sinners whole, and new (2 Cor. 5:17). My times of greatest struggle, however, were those periods where I went through the motions of recovery, having little faith in God’s power to redeem me.
In the same passage quoted above, Jesus says a littler further down:
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 (vs. 24).
The works Jesus speaks of are his making the blind see, the lame walk, the dead raised to life. If Jesus had not done these things, than you and I – the world – would not be guilty of preferring the natural ways of this world because we would not know another way was possible! But we do know. We have seen. We have heard testimonies of those who have been set free from their addictions. We have heard testimony from those who no longer live their lives enslaved to their desires. We have heard testimony from those who no longer revel in the excuse that they were “born this way” but instead rejoice in that they have been born again. Do they struggle? Are they tempted? Yes! But those struggles and temptations no longer define them, but are rather opportunities to mature in the faith (see James 1).
We have heard and seen these things, and yet we prefer the world’s way. We hate the way of Christ. Jesus must still marvel at our lack of faith (Mark 6:6).
My prayer for anyone reading this is that God would awaken in you a desire to be made new, not just better. I pray that God would awaken you to the truth of His word, that He desires to break the chains of sin and death in your life, and free you for joyful obedience to Christ. I pray that God would put a hunger and thirst in you for righteousness, that you would seek first the kingdom of God over the programs and comforts of this world.
I pray this for you, I pray this for myself, and I pray this for the Church. May we cling to Christ, presenting ourselves to the world as a way utterly peculiar to that from which we’ve been called out. Amen.