John 15:18-19 (NRSV)
“If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you.”
“Hate” is a strong word. As a child, I was taught that to hate someone meant wishing they were dead. Although somewhat dramatic and simplistic, this axiom holds a grain of truth. Hatred is a declaration of enmity. “I hate broccoli” means I find broccoli revolting and never want to see it on my dinner plate. “I hate you” means you and I are enemies, and I want you out of my life.
Jesus tells his disciples to expect hatred from the world. Further down the passage, he explains: “But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me” (v. 21). In other words, when your behavior reflects your faith in Jesus, some people will see you as their enemy, not because you have done wrong but because they do not know God the Father.
Seeing the power and goodness of God in you may force people to see themselves as they truly are—sinners in need of a savior. This awareness is what they hate, but instead of turning to God for mercy, they turn you into a target. Your behavior offends them. Your faith confounds them. Your forgiveness stings them.
Don’t take it personally. You are being an effective ambassador for God’s kingdom.
On the other hand, as followers of Jesus, we may lapse into hatred ourselves, which can never be of God. If we find ourselves loathing another person or a group of people, we can ask ourselves, what is it about this person, or these people, that offends me, and what does it force me to face within myself? Your hostility is a clue that part of your heart still operates in darkness, hidden from God and clinging to the ways of the world. Ask God to remove the darkness and bitterness so your heart can heal. Then ask for the grace to love and forgive others, even those who hate you.
FATHER, I know what it’s like to be hated, and I know what it’s like to hate. Give me grace to love and forgive those who hate me and to seek forgiveness from those whom I have hated. Take away my dark thoughts and bitter words that I may radiate your goodness and truth for all to witness.
Psalm 69:4; Matthew 5:43-45
How has your obedience to Christ made you a target for hatred? When have you reacted to others in the same hurtful ways?