(Today's post by James Rooks)
In the text of John 15:11 & 13 Jesus is talking with the disciples, explaining that their joy might be full and how they'd experience no greater love. I don't know about you, but that's pretty awesome news. These two truths about joy and love are tied together in Christ. That His joy would be in us, making our joy full and our understanding of total love being tied to laying down your life for others (friends).
Jesus continues by talking about his relational position with the disciples by calling them friends. Jesus differentiates between slaves and friends here. The transparency of their relationship with Jesus is made clear: slaves do not know about their master's business, but Jesus calls them friends. He goes on to say that everything that He heard from the father, He made known to the disciples. Obviously, there is foreshadowing as well in vs.13 … that one lay down his life for his friends. Jesus was warning the disciples of things to come.
18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.
Up to this point, everything seems fine … Full Joy, no greater love, friends with Jesus… but now comes a warning. Just a qualifying side bar on the term “world”. Think of the world not as planet earth or the grouping of continents or countries around the globe, but as those on earth who are not followers of Christ. There would be a distinct reaction from the world to Jesus and those whom Jesus considered His friends. I can just hear it now, “guys, you're going to have the fullness of my joy, you'll experience no greater love than this…but the world is going to hate you if you follow me.” (JRV). I'm sure their hearts began to sink as this reality set in for them. Maybe it wasn't the night that Jesus had this conversation with them. Maybe it was later as He was being arrested and led away to a rigged trial by those who wanted to get rid of him.
The crazy part is the Bible doesn't say that the world will hate you for being a good person or that the world will hate you for doing good to others. Ultimately, the world will hate you because you've done what Jesus commands you to do. Following Jesus results in experiencing full joy and love. Following Jesus results in being brought into the family of God. And all of this, the world hates.
Pondering this makes me think of all the times I've been hurt or surprised by the world's reaction to those that follow Jesus. Should I be surprised or shocked? Based on this passage, no.
For a Christ follower living in the world, we have to expect to be disliked, disagreed with, and treated disrespectfully. This comes with great disappointment and surprise for those of us who are a part of the American Church. With churches on every corner and Christianity being mainstream, we've gotten used to being liked by every one … for the most part. The desire on our part to be friends with both Christ and the world has put us in a funny position. While we love others with the love that Christ has given us, we hope for that love to be returned; but it doesn't always work that way. We expect society to act and think the way that we do, but it doesn't. When the nation's leaders leave God out of the Gettysburg address or singers on a national talent competition leave the word 'Lord' out of a song, we are taken aback. When schools work to suppress Christian ideas and beliefs that we see as foundational, we are shocked. When commercials wish us a happy holiday instead of Merry Christmas, we are angered. Why friends? Is society's rejection of God, and by association, a rejection of us as believers some new thing? No!
So what do we do with this? Here's what I'm taking away from the passage. I know that since God so loved the world, that I should too. When I am sold out and following Jesus, the Bible is clear that I will have a fullness of true joy and that I will experience God's love in my life. I also need not expect the world or society to follow along. In fact many times it will be the exact opposite. My job is to get in the trenches and love others the way that Christ loved us. The only way to balance this is by living to please Him and not the world. The world shows us everyday that it is very capable of turning its back on what is true and right. God, on the other hand, is always true, always just, and always right.