"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 what I told you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfil what is written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason'" (John Chapter 15 Verse 18 to 25).
I believe this segment in John is telling us that Jesus has called us to be his leaders in this fallen world. "I have chosen you out of this world." This is an important statement, and to me, it signifies that every Christian is automatically a leader to those around us, the salt and light in our communities.
Furthermore, the language in these verses carries with it the implication of necessary and continual antagonism. That if we really do not belong to this world, if we really don't conform to the pressures and standards of this world, then we shouldn't expect to feel loved by this world. That we shouldn't be surprised or even hurt when we are rejected by this world.
These verses also show us that if we share into Christ's love, then we must also share into his fate. That continual antagonism by the world – even by the religious "Pharisees and Sadducees" – is something that we can expect.
Sometimes, I wonder if we as Christians have become too comfortable, too complacent.
I read a hard-hitting quote this week: "A half-Christianised world and a more then half-secularised church can get on wonderfully well together."
We live in a westernised culture that is only what it is today because of Christian values and principles. Yet, as the standards of society are diminishing, are the standards in our lives and churches diminishing also? We will always be hated by the world, so why are we dropping our flags, buttoning our coats over the badges that show we belong to Christ, and conforming to the patterns of this world? Because it's easy when things are nice, undisturbed and comfortable.
Maybe we are ashamed? We don't want people to view us as different? But the Lord has called us to be unashamed:
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes...For in the gospel of righteousness God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." (Romans Chapter 1 Verse 16-18)
The gospel is the righteousness of God revealed.
I find sometimes, righteousness can be overlooked and, at points, ignored. We're told that we are saved by grace. That as long as we have faith and believe in God and the resurrection of his son Jesus, then we are saved.
But scripture also says that "faith without deeds is dead." (James Chapter 2 Verse 26b).
And so, I want to encourage us to remember we are still required to live righteously. As it says in Micah 6:8, "To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
The friendship of the world is not to be expected, but we should not be deterred from our work by its hatred. One great example of this is Israel Folau; a star rugby player who is not ashamed of the gospel. I had the privilege of hearing his testimony at the Australia Christian Lobby National Conference in Sydney.
One thing that I have learnt is we have no one to please but God.
"Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Galatians Chapter 1 Verse 10)
More testimonials of Christians who have faced persecution can be found here, we can know that we are not alone: https://www.hrla.org.au/our_work