“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.” John 15:18–19 ESV
This passage from John 15 has been for me, as of late, both a challenging admonition and a strategic encouragement. At first read, you might not think that either of those outcomes makes any sense given what the passage says. How can it be encouraging that the world may hate me? There isn’t a command in the passage, so how can it be an “admonition”? Let me explain.
First, the passage is a strategic encouragement. It is an encouragement, not because of its description of the hate for Christ’s disciples, but because of the reasons it gives for that hate. There are three reasons the passage gives for why we will be hated.
- We are hated because we do not belong to the world. The world loves those who are “of itself” and counts those people as “its own.” The world will celebrate all things that come into conformity with itself. It loves those things like itself and celebrates them. Paul describes this love in Romans 1:32, when those who have been given over to debased minds to practice every form of wickedness not only revel in their own sinfulness but “give approval to those who practice them.”
- Overlapping with reason one is reason two: we are also hated because we are not of the world. While we have lived as part of the world in our past, we are no longer of the world; that is, we are no longer defined by it. We no longer look like it. We no longer function in the same way it does, say the same things it does, or think the same way it does. The world requires uniformity, and to step outside of that uniformity is to bring its wrath upon ourselves.
- The first two reasons, though, are grounded in the third reason the world hates us: Christ has chosen us out of the world, has made us his own, and the world hates him. Why is it that we do not define ourselves by, look like, function in, speak like, or think like the world? Why do we no longer belong to it? Because Jesus saved us out of the world. Elsewhere Paul says similarly that we were transferred out of the dominion of darkness and into the kingdom of the Father’s beloved Son and are imitating not the wickedness of this world and its master, the devil, but the glory of our new sovereign and gracious King in whom we find redemption (Col 1:13–14). No longer are we underneath the wrath of God and confined to do our own wicked deeds, but we find ourselves united with one who is supreme in all of creation and redemption (Col 1:15–20) and are therefore holy and blameless before him if we continue to trust him (Col 1:21–23). As his redeemed people, we then become like him because we see him and love him (2 Cor 3:18). Since we are becoming like him and are united to him, we ought to expect the world to hate us as it hates him. What makes Jesus choosing us out of the world so encouraging is that this sovereign, matchless, gracious, loving King is in complete control of the universe, and we will never be snatched away from him (John 10:28–29). If that is the king who has chosen us, we have nothing to fear from the wrath of the world and can gladly stand against its requirement of uniformity.
This encouragement is strategic because these realities can sever the bond in any believer’s heart for worldly approval. All of us, especially in as public a world as we have today, are tempted to speak or act in such a way as to gain the approval of others, especially that of the world. In our social-media-saturated, virtue-signaling world, it is easy to get caught up in the moment of whatever is going on and voice our disdain for what the world views with disdain and love for what the world loves. That’s not to say that the world never, at one point or another, loves what we should biblically love. Blind squirrels can find acorns. But the overarching orientation of the world around us, especially right now, is to hate what is good and cling to what is evil. We must be ready to speak the truth of the Word regardless of how many Twitter followers we lose and how many friends disown us.
Second, how is this a challenging admonition? It is an admonition because it calls for us to not conform to the world, but to be transformed by the renewal of our minds (Rom 12:1–2). It is to lay aside every weight of sin that holds us back from finishing the race to win the prize, with Jesus running before us and guiding us (Heb 12:1–2). It is to hate father and mother, so that we can be Jesus’ disciple (Luke 14:26). It is to lay aside and conquer every thought (2 Cor 10:5) or reject any ideology we encounter that is not conformed to Christ (Col 2:28).
As a diagnostic test, I have been asking myself questions like the following for the past few months:
- To what extent have I taken on the perspective of the world on any given issue?
- What actions or statements have I made, especially on social media, that have been loved by those who are worldly?
- Have I conducted myself in fear of what those around me might say rather than boldly proclaiming the gospel of Christ?
- Is what I’m believing and teaching loved by the world or hated by the world?
- In what ways have I adopted the language of the world regarding the events of the day?
The challenge of this admonition is that it is difficult to assess yourself regarding ways you are exhibiting uniformity with the world. It isn’t simply that we dip our toes into the putrid, festering lake of the world every once in a while and proclaim our disgust. Rather, we find ourselves in an in-between state of belonging to Christ and finding ourselves continuing to live in the world’s waters. We can find ourselves constantly intaking all the world has to offer, all the lies it proclaims, and all the ideologies it revels in through every media and social outlet imaginable. And unless we are in constant awareness of what is going on around us and fighting against its influence, we will not always realize the difference between surfacing to drink deeply of the waters of Christ and consuming the toxic waters of the world.
So pray for us! Pray that at this school we would produce the kinds of students who can take up that task and fulfill this admonition. Pray that our students think with clarity regarding the ideologies of the world. Pray that we produce students who can bring to the world the Word of God, so that Christ’s name may be proclaimed and loved by all who are his, regardless of the world’s wrath they are sure to experience. Pray, especially, for our evening program students and other students who are applying to our school. This time of year is the most significant recruiting time for our Bachelor of Theology and our Master of Arts programs, and we want students in our seats who are serious about receiving the kind of education that God will use to conform them to Christ. Pray whether you might consider joining us to train for gospel ministry to a world that will hate us for preaching the truth to them.
Pray that we would hold fast in faith to Jesus, who has chosen us out of the world.
Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies
- Please continue to pray for peace in the city of Minneapolis and the surrounding communities.
- Please continue to pray that the Lord would guide the Presidential Succession Commission and the Board of Trustees.
- Pray that God would give wisdom and grace to our admissions team as they continue to recruit students, even up to the first day of classes.
- Pray that our staff and faculty would find refreshment during the summer and prepare well to bring God’s word to our students this Fall.
- Pray for new donors to rise up and give generously to Bethlehem College & Seminary and bring in the final $53,607, that we may finish our fiscal year strongly.
- Pray for our community, that they would not have uniformity with the world but be willing to be hated by the world as they are more and more conformed to Christ through faith.