June 19,2024

Dear Church family, 

It must be almost a month ago that I preached a message on John 15:18-16:4 and Christ’s promise of the world hating His people for His sake. I haven’t been able to get those words from Jesus out of my mind and that’s why I’m writing you about them a few weeks later. 

(1) One of the things that I hope you’ll remember is how the context of Christ’s promise of hatred applied to those living on His mission (John 15:16, 26-27). What is His mission? It’s to bear witness to Jesus in front of other people in word and deed. I emphasized how this includes speaking about people’s sin as that would be one giant reason that they need Jesus and it would point towards His atoning work on the cross. However, when you are so bold so as to gently kindly point somebody’s sin out for the purpose of salvation in Jesus’ name, it will elicit some hatred (John 15:22) because people don’t like to think that they are not good people. In fact, they may think that you are hating them even while you are actually trying to love them. 

However, I did not go into more detail about how not only our words concerning Christ will spark some hatred (remember it’s passive, aggressive, or verbal hatred, it takes different shapes and forms), but also our works

1 Peter 4:4 mentions how verbal hatred will be the result of our righteous living: 

“With respect to these (in v3, Peter listed signature sins of our culture) they are surprised that when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you.”

In other words, never underestimate how simply living a pure lifestyle around your peers may get you socially hated or made fun of. 

(2) Second, What has really moved me about Jesus words is our (mine included) propensity and tendency to try to do everything in our power to steer away from other people hating us or even disliking us. And because hatred by our peers for Christ’ sake is the result of living on His mission, we may avoid living on God’s mission (in work and word) so that we can avoid hatred and dislike. 

Jesus words in other parts of the Bible really hit me along those lines, like these ones: 

Luke 6:22-23 – “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.”


Luke 6:26  – “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”

We typically think of others speaking well of us as a good thing. It could be or it might not be. Are they speaking well of you because you are simply nice, too nice because it lacks truth or a willingness to love somebody with truth? Or are people speaking well of you because you genuinely love them. Of course, we sing Christ’s praises, and that is a good thing, but not everybody does; some people hate Him (and many people take the passive form of this). 

I wonder if we really want to be “Christ like” as Jesus says in John 15:18, “if they hate you it’s because they hated me first.” 

Apparently one of the symptoms that comes with being identified with Jesus and being Christ like is to be hated. We don’t like that very much and so much that I’m convinced that in subtle ways we (me included) often compromise our Christian witness a little just in order to avoid hatred. We can easily form a false form of godliness or Christ likeness if we try to avoid hatred. 

But remember, we’re not aiming for hatred, we’re aiming for Jesus which comes from hatred. So if you aren’t being hated a lot, don’t sweat it because we’re not in charge of the people that God brings to us. We in America, and especially in Lancaster County, may find it more difficult to find clearly hateful people to Christ’s message, but they certainly exist in growing fashion (Maybe it depends on who you work with and who is your neighbor!). 

Yet isn’t it amazing how we hate the hatred of people towards us pointed at Christ and yet Jesus says it’s a reason for rejoicing! 

Luke 6:22-23 is an intriguing verse. Jesus says that you are blessed for being hated in His name. I would naturally feel embarrassed or wilted for being hated in His name, but Jesus says it’s a reason to leap for joy because your reward is great in heaven. 

It’s amazing how many times Jesus refers to delayed gratification. We are really bad at that in the modern age where everything comes at our fingertips. But Jesus says that you can rejoice because your reward is great for being hated for His name. 

You see this in the New Testmant with the Apostles. They went away rejoicing after being flogged for Jesus (Acts 5:40-42). And you’ll notice in that story how the apostles still went on telling people about Jesus from house to house. 

Can we find joy in being identified with Jesus in misery? One thing is for certain, Jesus words just a few sentences later in John 16:16-26 provide the source and power behind our joy in persecution related to Jesus: Jesus says, “so you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (v22)

Then Jesus goes on to talk about how our joy will be made full through prayer (vv23-26). 

So how do we tolerate hatred from the world as we live on Christ’s mission? We understand that the joy of being loved by Jesus is greater than the hatred that comes from the world! The value of being identified with Jesus is so much greater than the sensation of being accepted by the world. I would rather be close to Jesus and far from the world than alienated from Jesus and close to the world. 

And that has to be our mentality. God help us to rejoice more in Jesus than in the world! I need help with this and this is one of the ways that I need to pray that my joy may be full (16:24), “dear Father, please help me to find more delight in Christ alone. May I see Him for Who He is and find more joy in association with Him and obedience to Him than any kind of reward the world would give me for being liked. In Jesus name, I ask, amen.” 

With love & joy in Christ,  

Aaron

P.S. Here is an article that my friend Jacob  Buckwalter wrote awhile ago which I think applies well to Christ’s words on hatred in the world and how it relates to our American perspective because too often in America, we have been trained up and accustomed to our Christian faith and practice to receive an acceptance and favor from the world. But that’s not a given!: 

o   “”It comes as no surprise to anyone following the news and cultural trends to see that we are living in a “post-Christian” America. According to Pew Research Center, 65% of the U.S. population identifies as Christian (down 12 points in the last decade) while those who identify as “none” has increased from 17% in 2009 to 26% currently. The social climate has been changing for years now with no indication of reversal. Make no mistake, this is certainly cause for lament, but be careful where our lament is directed. When we mourn for culture, let it be for lost souls and not lost comfort.

o   Christianity being the dominant worldview in government and culture is an anomaly that we have been blessed to enjoy, but is not necessary for continued growth of the kingdom of God. We should be wary of the time and energy we devote to maintaining or reclaiming cultural dominance and instead focus our efforts on our role as Christians in a secular culture.

o   Firstly, we are citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20) and “have no lasting city” here but “seek the city that is to come” (Heb 13:14). America holds no special favor in the eyes of God over any other country. According to 1 John 5:19 the “whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” No exceptions are made for a “shining city on a hill.” Our comfort lies in the fact that though darkness is pervasive in this world, “we know that we are from God” and that we are not alone in whatever suffering we may encounter. We are not the first to take part in this suffering either, but join in with all the prophets who have gone before (Matt 5:11-12) beginning first with Christ Himself. Finally, we should expect this treatment because Jesus warned us that we would be hated on His account, but also promised that if we endure we would be saved (Mark 13:13).

o   Is there any good news for the culture? The answer is a resounding YES! We have been living in a culture where it is not only easy, but in some areas advantageous, to call yourself a Christian. This sort of environment has grown generations of people who identify as “Christian” but are still serving other gods (comfort, power, success, etc.) If we’re following the same idols as the culture, what do we have to offer them? A “wide road” gospel still leads to destruction. A culture that no longer accepts Christians or Christian values as the norm will have the unintended effect of ridding the church of “cultural Christianity” and strengthening the true church.”

From Pastor Aaron

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