Monday, June 18, 2012

John 15:18-21

After a wonderful lesson about the need to love one another, Jesus delivers a warning about hate:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  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.  Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is 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." (John 15:18-21)

Jesus is warning the disciples that they can expect the same treatment He receives from the world. Don’t be surprised when the world hates you and persecutes you; they hated and persecuted our LORD, as well. In fact, our identification with Christ assures that many will hate us. The key to this is that it is our relationship to Christ, not our own obnoxious behavior that is the cause of the persecution. Some people believe the conflict they are experiencing with others is due to their stand for righteousness, when in reality they are coming up against persecution just because of their judgmental attitude, their hypocritical behaviors, or their abrasive personalities. So we first need to check our own behaviors.

However, if you have truly asked the LORD to check your heart, and you are still suffering persecution for standing up for Christ, you can take courage from the fact that Jesus promised this would be the case. And that is because our battle is not with the people persecuting us - it is not personal - it is spiritual. There is a struggle going on all around us, as Paul confirmed:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

So when we find ourselves in the midst of it, what should our attitude be? Should we be whining, depressed, defeated? No, Jesus told us we should rejoice, for persecution is a blessing:

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)

As ambassadors for Christ, we are going to face the hatred of the world. We are not to answer in kind, but repay evil and insults with blessings, seek and pursue peace, and commit ourselves to God and continue to do good. (2 Peter 2:9,11; 2 Peter 4:19) Being persecuted hurts! Our natural response is to feel overwhelmed and to desire retribution. But Jesus has lovingly warned us beforehand that this will happen, and He commands us to act in faith, not react in defensiveness. This requires a supernatural response, which is only possible when we commit ourselves to our faithful Father, who remains in control at all times. He promises to bring good out of it - eternal good and glory to His name. Hallelujah!

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