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. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.
Four hundred years before Jesus, the Greek philosopher Plato thought deeply about the nature of the world. And in his book The Republic (Book II), Plato theorized that if a truly just man ever appeared, the world would reject him. Plato said “the just man who is thought unjust will be scourged, racked, bound – will have his eyes burnt out”. Did Plato have some illumination by the Spirit to know that when the truly just man did appear, the world would reject Him, scourge Him, and crucify Him?
Jesus knows the hearts of people; He knows that if the world hates Him, it will also hate His friends. Wanting to prepare His disciples for what they are facing, Jesus warns that because they are His friends they share His fate.“If they persecute me”, Jesus says, “they will persecute you”. Being united to Jesus means they will be rejected. So also, we cannot be Jesus’ friends without drawing opposition from those who reject Him.
While most of Jesus’ friends today do not face the kind of violent opposition Jesus and His first disciples encountered, His message still stirs harsh and stubborn opposition. The world attacks Jesus and His friends by attacking His message: He is God, and the only way to the Father. Try standing up in a polite gathering of people and repeating Jesus’ claim: “No one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6). If you do, you will likely be dismissed by many as narrow-minded and unloving.
Jesus’ repeated command to love as He loves (John 13:34; 15:10, 12, 14) sets the stage for dealing with opposition and rejection. It is not without significance that Jesus tells His disciples they are to be known by their love. So let us keep close to the Father’s heart, declaring Jesus’ message, facing opposition as He faced it, and loving as He loves.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son… (John 3:16).
What are there in Jesus’ words today to know; to feel; to do?