Read John 15:18 - 16:4
18"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If 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. 20Remember 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. 21They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. 22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. 23He who hates me hates my Father as well. 24If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason.'
26"When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. 27And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
1"All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. 2They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. 3They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you. (NIV)
As one reads this passage, one cannot help but since the hatred people have for Christ and his followers. The one thing about John’s Gospel is that the world is clearly divided. There is the world and there is the Church. And for John, there is no middle ground – no grey area. You are either with Christ or against Christ.
By the time of the writing of John’s Gospel, persecution against the Christians was beginning. The Roman Empire had made Christianity illegal. You could be a most wonderful person, but it the magistrates found out you were a Christian, you were subject to punishment and possibly death. The Christians were accused of several things. They were considered insurrectionists. They would not claim that Caesar is Lord. They were accused of being cannibals from the misunderstanding of Communion. People thought they truly ate flesh and drank blood. Some even believed it was babies they killed an ate. They were considered immoral as they practiced a weekly meal called a Love Feast. The people thought this was a feast of sexual indulgence and not a just a shared meal. They were considered incendiaries as they looked to the second coming of Christ. This was because they attached the Second coming of Christ with the Day of the Lord which portrayed a day the world would be destroyed by fire. And they were accused of tampering with the family structure. This one came from the fact that families became divided as some members decided to follow Christ and others didn’t. We see this in Jesus words that he came not to bring peace, but a sword and that families will be divided.
John includes this to remind the believers that Jesus warned them all this would happen. And we see it happening today. Our country is more and more turning on those who believe. Many people live today in fear of displaying a faith at work or at school for fear of being persecuted. There are people today who have said Christianity is trying to take us back in time to worse times.
Over my time in the ministry, I have come to see that the more effective a church is, the more conflict it has to deal with. Not always from inside, but that there are attacks on the church. There are forces that do not want to see the church succeed and even hate the church. This is something we need to know happens, but learn to stand firm in our faith. Jesus’ warning that this will happen is to help us deal with it when it does.
How do you see persecution today? Have you had to deal with people who don’t like the church and let it show? Do you at times hold back on letting people know you are a Christian for fear of being looked down on or being harassed in some way? We will always have people who do not like the church. But we must stand in our faith and trust that Christ will give us the strength to stand, to speak and to act.
Blessings and Peace