… the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world.(John 17:14)
How often do we hear statements like this in the western world? The answer is, these days, a lot. Quite often it is in a context of the understanding that Christianity is no longer the only religion in our culture.
Contrary to what we hear in many of these statements, however, Christianity is still the dominant religion in our immediate world. The mores of Christian dogma continue to shape and form both our laws and customs. Though some may try to convince us that Christianity is under attack and about to lose power and control, that is far from the case.
Here is real problem: the “Christianity” that is in power is not necessarily always the one that Jesus taught us. Key ways you can tell this include that the words mores, dogma, control, power, and dominant were all in the last paragraph. None of those words were central to Jesus’ teachings or life. If anything, they were all opposed to everything for which Jesus stood.
The truth, unseemly as it is, is that the church should be hated by the world. It is not something necessarily to be fear, but something we can and should embrace. But probably not in the way you may be thinking.
If the church is living into its true calling and purpose as the body of Christ, it will be utterly opposed to anything that serves death, hate, evil, domination, power, denigration, dehumanization, malice – anything that leaves a stream of broken relationships and bodies in its wake. As it is against those things, it is also meant to be for countless others: life, love, grace, empowerment, courage, commendation, welcome, kindness, reconciliation, response, and so much more.
What Jesus said, repeatedly throughout the gospels, is that the way we know we are following Christ correctly is when the world becomes uncomfortable and sometimes even upset by how much we love and include and give grace and show mercy. This behavior is quite foreign to a world dominated by power and control and thus it will very often bring hatred because those forces do not understand it.
Nevertheless, the Love that will give everything for another – that is the God we serve. That is the One for whom we stand. So yes, be ready to embrace the hatred of others towards you. Just be sure it is for the correct, Christ-centered reason that you are being so loving that the world just can’t stand it.
You are loved more than you can possibly imagine – now go and do likewise.