Posted by: Philip Rushton | June 17, 2013

Getting In Trouble For The Right Reasons

“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.” John 15:18-20

John’s sermon on this text yesterday caused me to consider what Jesus means when he warns his disciples to anticipate hatred and persecution from the world. I think that the application of this text requires some important discernment. Christians seem to be getting into their fair share of trouble with our world these days; however, I do not always think they are getting in trouble for the right reasons. Unfortunately, much of the anger and hatred we receive from the world is not the kind of hatred Jesus is envisioning in this text.

In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus says, “blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.” Notice the important qualifier that Jesus uses. Jesus says it is blessed to be persecuted for doing what is right. Consider the things that Jesus got in trouble for. He got in trouble for exposing the unjust economic systems at the temple that were taking advantage of the poor, confronting systems of racism by including Samaritans in his ministry, offering grace to prostitutes and tax collectors who were hated by society, and challenging the oppressive legalism of the religious establishment. Jesus, was getting in trouble for doing what was right and just.

Unfortunately, many Christians today are being persecuted for “unrighteousness sake.” The frustrations I often hear from people outside the church is that Christians are judgmental, hypocritical, insensitive, or hostile. In these situations the church is not being persecuted for righteousness sake; instead, the church is getting in trouble for abandoning the very teachings of Jesus.

At the end of John 15 Jesus says that the hatred he received from the world was “without reason” (vs 25). I think that this is an important qualifier for us to consider when discerning whether we are experiencing the type of resistance Jesus had in mind. If people are angry at the church because of unrighteous or unjust behavior than they have good reason to be angry.

We would do well to consider the very first sentence of this passage in the gospel of John. Jesus begins this whole discussion on cultural resistance by saying, “this is my command: love one another.” As we engage our culture we must not forget the command to love those outside our walls. While Jesus says we may receive hatred from the world, he does not say we should respond to the world with a similar hatred. This text is not a license to start a culture war. As Paul says in Romans 12, “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

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Responses

  1. Thank you, Phil. We all need to be reminded of this often. I love reading your Monday posts.
    Marian

    • Thanks Marian! Blessings to you and Bob as he continues to heal.

  2. Phil, when do we stop “throwing pearls before swine” or “leave and shake the dust off our sandals”?? Meaning, certain Christians, (not me) would keep persisting in cause for Christ even to point of being persecuted to death. Because they take this commandment to share gospel to heart.


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