Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Do Right and Be Hated

In 1 John 3:16-18 the Apostle John informs us about the kind of love that indicates that one has been born of God. But before he gives us the positive example of Christ, he first wants us to think about the negative example of the Old Testament character, Cain.

For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother.

Now the reason John mentions Cain and his murder of Abel is not so much to give us a negative example of love, but rather to show how the world will respond to the love of God within us. So in verse 13 he says, in light of what Cain did to Abel, “do not be surprised that the world hates you.” As Abel was to Cain, so Christians are to the world. The world will hate Christians as wickedness hates righteousness.

Notice how illogical this hatred is. Abel did nothing wrong, certainly nothing injurious to Cain. But he was hated by Cain nonetheless. Christians will be hated, but not because of anything wrong done to the world. We are, in fact, to show love to the world and so give them no legitimate reason to despise us (Titus 2:7-8). We are to love our neighbor and do good to them. It is a good thing to be at peace with your neighbor.

But Cain hated Abel and killed him, "because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous." Every time Cain laid eyes on his brother, he was reminded of his own sinfulness. Similarly, the Christian's right standing with God will be a constant reminder to the world that they have been rejected by God.

So it will come as no surprise when we do have to bear the hostility of the world simply because of our association with Christ. If he was hated, so his followers will be. This is what Jesus predicted in John 15:18-19.

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

Now the reason why it is important for us to know this is because it will be tempting for the believer to deny Christ when he faces the hatred of the world. After Jesus warned about the coming hatred, he said

I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. . . . Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. . . . But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. (John 16:1-4)

Those who are coming to faith in Jesus need to know that doing so will not make their life easier. Wouldn't Jesus have had more followers if he had promised a life of ease and prosperity? Sure, but they would have followed him for his material blessings and not for his glory. Instead, Jesus set the bar high at the beginning. Following Jesus means you will be hated, but God's glory will shine brightest when we persevere in faith and love both our brothers and sisters as well as our enemies.

We need to stop suggesting to people that following Jesus is a life of ease. Jesus never hinted that that would be the case. Instead, he wanted us to know that following him would bring its share of suffering and hardship precisely because of our choice to follow him.

Still interested in following Jesus?

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