A Life of Persecution
John 15:18–25, 16:1–4
These words warn that what follows will contain information that could spoil a plot. In this passage, Jesus provides information about the storyline of the mission He has given His followers, but the information won’t spoil it. It will help prepare them for their role in the story.
The world opposes us when we live like Jesus. (18–21)
It is no surprise for 21st century Christians that there is great misunderstanding, even hatred, between true disciples of Jesus and those who do not follow Him as Lord.
This is most evident where Christians have opposed the normalization of sins such as abortion, gambling, divorce, prostitution or other sexual sin. It is less evident, but still true, when Christ’s followers oppose sins like selfishness, pride, greed or deceit.
The hatred people of the world have for Christians is based on two things. First, Christians are simply different. If they weren’t different, if they were still part of the world, the world would embrace them.
Sinful humanity constantly struggles with people who are different, whether it is the child on the autism spectrum, the person on the other side of the political aisle or even the fan of the other team. Different can be difficult and people who have been transformed by Jesus are very, very different from those who haven’t.
The world rejects Jesus in spite of the truth He has revealed. (22–25)
The second reason the world hates Christians is because they are like Jesus. The more a Christian acts like Him, the greater the hatred. The less one acts like Jesus, the less the hatred. Christians who do not experience hatred from the world might need to re-examine how well they live and act like Jesus.
Though this doesn’t surprise contemporary Christians, it could have been an unexpected revelation for first century followers. They had experienced the life-changing message of Jesus firsthand. They had received the message of forgiveness of sins through Jesus that should have been, as the angels told the shepherds, “Good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10).
They might easily believe that this good news would indeed be received with great joy. Jesus reminded them this is not how the world received the news even directly from Him, and it would not be how the world would receive the news from His followers.
Jesus came with words of salvation and works of love, and He was hated. His followers would experience the same.
Anticipating persecution will help us have a steadfast faith. (16:1–4a)
There is an old saying: “Forewarned is forearmed.” But Jesus did not reveal this information to His disciples to help them defend against persecution. He warned them so they could endure it.
It is easy for Christians, especially leaders, to take rejection personally. If Christians expected the world to receive the message of Jesus eagerly, then rejection and persecution could be very discouraging. It would be easy for Christians to lose heart and even wander from their faith under persecution. But if rejection and persecution are normal expected parts of following Jesus, they are no longer personal failures or even cause for worry. They are a natural part of following Jesus and becoming more like Him in every way.
By Daryl Watts
Watts is a church consultant in Fresno, California.