Love and Hate

This morning I read part of John 7.  In the first half of the chapter Jesus’ brothers are unconvinced that he’s anything out of the ordinary.  They want him to come with them to the Jewish Feast of Booths so that he can show off a bit, maybe do some party tricks.  Jesus tells them ‘no.’  The timing is off and it isn’t right for him to present himself yet.  The Father hasn’t given him the go-ahead.  Then Jesus says something to his brothers that stopped me in my tracks.  He says,

The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.  (John 7:7, emphasis mine).

We have been back in the States for 3.5 months now.  We’ve gotten used to American life, mostly.  We don’t code our e-mails or watch who we talk to.  We aren’t scared that our friends will have their houses burned down because they were seen fraternizing with Christians.  Our days aren’t punctuated with text messages such as:  Pr-y for Ramesh.  He’s in prison and has been beaten badly because he was leading an outdoor w-rship service.  Bleeding badly. 

And so, in comparison, it’s easy to believe that life in the US is safe and secure for Christians–that anyone can speak his mind in the public square without fear of retribution.  After all, it could be much worse.  We’ve seen worse.  But Jesus’ words haunt me.

[The world]…hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. 

This morning I am reminded that to follow Jesus in love and humility is to be hated as he was hated.  That means that often true believers will be despised and mocked in the US, as well as in Africa, Asia, and Europe.  It means that some people will seek the truth as if it were a costly jewel and be willing to give anything for it.  But many more will be angered by it.  They will cringe and writhe and demand that it isn’t so.  They will say that the truth is a lie, that it is hateful and wrong.

I am reminded that this is normal.  Indeed I should expect it.

Later in John 7, Jesus does make an appearance at the feast.  People hear him talk and can’t figure out from whence his wisdom comes.  He knows that their hearts are not open, that they cannot see with spiritual eyes.  But he answers them anyway, and his words comfort me.

My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.  If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.  The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.  (John 7:16b-18)

If truth, communicated in love, is detestable to some, or most, we must pray.  Because the truth comes from the Father and not ourselves.  We must pray that unbelievers will have the eyes of their hearts opened, and we must encourage one another to keep the faith.  But when the world rejects the truth and hates those who cherish it, we must not be surprised or angry or dismayed.  This is the way it has always been.

[The world]…hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.

But later Jesus tells his disciples,

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.  (John 16:33, emphasis mine).

Thank you, Jesus.  Help us to receive hate with love, the way you did.

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