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18 “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. 20 Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. 21 They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me. 22 They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Anyone who hates me also hates my Father. 24 If I hadn’t done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be guilty. But as it is, they have seen everything I did, yet they still hate me and my Father. 25 This fulfills what is written in their Scriptures: ‘They hated me without cause.’
Following Jesus means hardships.
Many years ago, when Aaron and I had just gotten married, I suffered an intense trial that, believe it or not, was forced upon me by other Christians in a church where I was serving. One night, after months of personal turmoil over these circumstances, my husband, Aaron, pulled out his Bible and read John 15:18-25 to me.
My reaction wasn’t what he expected. I said to him in response, “Is this supposed to comfort me?”
I wasn’t sure what to think about this passage back then, because my understanding of faith and following God had so much to do with God’s protection and saving me from pain. I came to Christ as a teen amid an epic breakthrough following many years of tumultuous pain and turmoil that imprisoned me. It was God’s love – and only His love-that rescued me from that form of hell I was living in.
So years later when I was facing persecution from other Christians, I was hurt and confused. Isn’t this faith all about rescue? Isn’t the Lord supposed to protect me? Isn’t Jesus supposed to save me from my pain?
It took me many years of both academic study and personal prayer and discipleship to finally be able to receive the wisdom packed words from Jesus in John 15:18
What Jesus tells His followers in this passage is as true and important for us as it was them at the time.
The world is hostile towards Jesus because He is the light… and darkness hates the light.
But you know this, right? This isn’t new information to you. It’s pretty foundational to all of our Christian beliefs.
Then why is it so hard when people hurt us and troubles come our way? Why are we so surprised?
I think it has a lot to do with misunderstanding what it means to follow God. While there are beautiful truths about God being our fortress and shelter, we can impose that to also mean we will never face hardships and God will always protect us.
Jesus came to show us the way, but if you pay attention to Jesus’ ministry at all you will see that it was filled with strife and conflict. Jesus always seemed to be attacked, mostly by the people of God. But the big difference is this: Jesus never faltered.
He was unshakable despite the threats and constant attack on His identity.
It was through Jesus’ self-worth and His identity that He was protected. It wasn’t that Jesus or the other disciples that followed (including you and me today) wouldn’t face suffering.
But none of us will face suffering alone.
This is paramount and an epic revelation that all of us need to clench on to. Through it all, God is always with us. He is leading us through whatever we may face. From the mountain tops to the valleys, God is with us through it all.
As light-bearers in the world, the more intensely we shine Jesus’ light, the more evil will try to attack. Jesus’ warning in John 15 is that we need to be aware of the playing field. The world hates Jesus and His light – and anyone that aligns with Jesus and tries to spread the Good News through word, action, and deed, will be hated.
There is no sugar coating this message because Jesus’ words are unfortunately true. “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.” John 15:18
To accept the Gospel fully, we must understand all the aspects of what we face. But many Christians get in a pickle when they look at the Gospel only through the lens of joy and a life free of suffering.
It is only through God that we find ourselves free and have a life filled with the Fruit of the Spirit, which is joy, peace, patience, love, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. While the world is hostile to Christ-followers, God does not leave us all alone to our fate. Instead, He equips us and strengthens us for the battle we find ourselves in.
But we must continually seek Jesus and ask Him to become more prominent in our lives, hearts, and minds.
We must strive to know God greater each day. Then when hardships come our way, we resemble Christ because we have a solid foundation.
As Jesus approached His ultimate suffering on earth, He looked it square in the eye and grabbed hold of the Father in order to walk courageously and selflessly to that Cross.
We too are all called to walk paths we don’t want. Unfortunately, some of us don’t cling to God’s hand in the way Jesus showed us. But we have to model ourselves after Jesus in order to prepare today for the inevitable storm that might come tomorrow.
So yes, we will face hardships in this life, just like Jesus did, but we don’t have to face them alone!
Spend some time thinking about the thing you most fear in life – that which is causing you the most headache, stress, worry, or even anger. Bring it before Jesus and ask Him to help you face it like He faced the Cross.
Mighty Savior, Thank you for showing us what it looks like to be unshakable despite suffering. Thank you for teaching us through example of how to courageously and strongly walk through hardships like you did in your earthly ministry. I want to be more like you Jesus. I know I can’t avoid trials, but I do know I can become equipped the stronger I become you. So grow in me God, flourish in ways I have never known before. I am so utterly thankful for you Jesus and without you I don’t know where I would be. Amen.
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Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.