There are many uncomfortable truths found in scripture. But because they are uncomfortable does not mean they are not true. With that in mind, let's look at the following verses spoken by Jesus.
If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.”
Definitely not a fun one to digest. How can this be? Jesus was love. Christians are commanded to love. How can we hated for being a loving people? It comes down to the fact that there is an enemy of Christ’s church that turns the world against it. Satan. He is a spirit of lawlessness. A spirit that is against any moral standard. He twists the love of Christ and deceitfully labels the convictions of His followers. We see it happening now. Christ followers are now called those who embrace hate, bigotry, intolerance, and are an ignorant people who live in the Dark Ages. For those who are of Christ, we know that this is the farthest thing from the truth. It can be discouraging and frustrating for us to see this kind of misjudgment being aimed in our direction. But it’s been happening from the early beginnings of the church as research reveals.
“It is an odd fact that the world soon justified its hostility to them by imputing to them the initiative in hatred. The earliest extant reference to Christians in pagan literature charges them with ‘hatred of the human race’.” (Tacitus, Annals, 15.44.5)
To help us cope, we need to understand the nature of the spiritual battle and how it manifests here on earth.
2 Thessalonians 2:7
7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way
Lawlessness is already at work and will only intensify until the coming Antichrist who will fully embody this spirit. What does lawlessness look and sound like. Lets look at that it will look like embodied.
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4
3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
Spiritual lawlessness sets itself up against the law of God and demands worship and compliance to it's "moral and social norms" that are in direct opposition to Gods moral standard. Evil perverts righteousness. Sin will always be rooted in self exaltation. And a spirit of lawlessness raises self above all else. Righteousness glorifies God and submits self to His will. The enemy’s deceit says “do as you will.” This deceived mindset cannot tolerate the idea of sin and righteousness because it would demand responsibility for personal choices. This is unwanted judgement and needs to be silenced. It thus leads to backwards thinking that is embraced.
“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, And prudent in their own sight!”
Again, evil perverts righteousness. When deceived into thinking there is no sin, one cannot tolerate righteousness. This is the root of hate that is aimed toward those who stand upon the Word of God as the authority over their own lives. Ultimately this is why religious freedom is being eroded, why the media and Hollywood mock us and accuse us of hate, and why many politicians have such disdain for Christianity. Because it’s a spiritual war, light against dark. Righteousness against evil. Even if all Christ followers acted perfectly and lovingly, hate would still come.
But here’s the thing, if we live according to Gods moral truth for our own, individual lives, and then simply do our best to love and be kind to others, how could people hate us? I mean, The Church does so much good for society. It does so much for those who are less fortunate. It does so much to help those who need help the most. It doesn’t totally make sense that we would be despised. Let’s look at Jesus as walked the earth to get an even better understanding of why the world hated Him and will ultimately hate His followers.
We first need to understand that the love Jesus demonstrated was a perfect love. Not the love that the world is now promoting. Jesus walked the earth for one reason only, He understood the reality and penalty of sin, which is eternal separation from Him. Jesus did not hesitate to teach about the reality of eternal Hell. This consequence of unforgiven sin was so great that Christ willingly allowed himself to be crucified in place of us, to take the punishment for all sin in order to be the atonement for sin. But today we’ve gotten to a place where people don’t like to discuss the reality of Hell. it seems unloving, judgmental, and hateful. But without this truth, Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross was not a great act of love, but total insanity. Understanding the severity of sin as seen through God’s eyes is always needed to reveal God’s life changing love. So Again, we have to remember that Jesus came to SAVE mankind. Meaning we would all perish if He did not come. That’s love. It was love that was protective and instructive. It didn't give permission to live however we wanted. That's not love, that's lawlessness.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
The world needed saving and still needs saving. Jesus’s ultimate act of love was saving us from condemnation and pointing us in the direction of new life. He didn’t minimize sin, excuse it, or say it didn’t exist. Yes, Jesus loved and forgave as He ministered here on earth, but He also commanded to sin no more. He understood the real presence of evil. He warned us of the reality of deception. He himself was tempted by Satan. He warned us about Satan. He cast out demons, He knew the reality of the spiritual war raging over mankind. He taught us this as part of his mission to save us. His grace saves us from our sins, but His teaching helps us understand the real threat of evil and its potential to deceive us. It provides light in the darkness for all those who will follow Him. So why was he hated then?
Simply summarized, Jesus, God in flesh, walked according to the righteousness of His kingdom. He did not conform to societal norms or demands, He created a new normal. A heavenly kingdom normal. His choices and manner of living exposed the sin and motivations of others. This did not sit well with many and ultimately he would be crucified. Darkness hated the light.
The world we know now is slowly turning against followers of Christ for the same reason. The spirit of lawlessness already at work simply cannot tolerate the light and truth of Christ. No matter how loving we are, our personal obedience to Christ will by nature expose darkness. Because it’s a real spiritual war, darkness will try to defeat the light. The good news is, we will be victorious, because we have eternal life and even more so, God‘s will for us here on earth cannot be thwarted by the intimidation and tactics of the enemy. But, if we try to be like the world, and wage war as the world, or be deceived into thinking that the truth we follow is flawed, we will be overcome.
As followers of Christ, we need to be ready to respond as Christ responded, He loved the unlovable, but never wavered from truth. He was misjudged, falsely labeled, ridiculed and mocked. He forgave all those who mistreated Him yet He did not conform to their moral and selfish demands. He obeyed the will of His Father in heaven to save us from perishing. He was in the world but not of it. We are commanded to do the same. We live by God’s Word. We submit to His ways and say no to our sinful flesh. Our lives should shine in the darkness, not add to the darkness. We may be called foolish, bigots, hypocrites, and judgmental. But remember, Jesus endured more than we ever will so we could live victoriously through it all and be a light to many. We have the hope of His kingdom so that we can bring that hope to those who need the promise of His kingdom. We may be hated by many, but many will also love us for the truth of salvation we bring to them.