John 15.18-16.4a (ESV)
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 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. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ 26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning. 1 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.
As I read this passage, I couldn’t help thinking about all the hatred, anger, vitriol, bitterness, and violence that seems to overwhelm our headlines these days. Horrendous acts are inflicted upon people in the name of ideologies, old hatreds, and in the name of various religions, including in the name of Jesus.
The immediate “world” that Jesus is speaking of here is that of the Judeans, the people of God. Remember that there were many Judeans who took exception to what Jesus was doing and felt threatened by the things that Jesus said (on two separate occasions they were going to stone Jesus to death).
This world, after Jesus’ ascension in Acts 1, will see Paul spring forth, whose hatred for Christianity will fuel Paul’s passion to utterly stomp out of existence the gospel before it spreads too far (although Paul too will come to entrust his life to Jesus). Throughout the first couple of centuries, the early church faced repeated persecution, and as a matter of fact, persecutions have continued right up until this very moment.
I must also add, to our shame, that Christians have also participated in carrying out violence against others as well. Many times, the name of Jesus and the Gospel have been used as justification for bloodshed and even war. “The idea that the gospel of Jesus and his love could be spread by any kind of violence would be a sort of sick joke if it weren’t such a serious mistake.” N.T. Wright
Jesus, in this passage, is warning His disciples in advance, that hatred will be something which they will experience as they follow Him. But in following Jesus, we must remember that God so loved the world that He gave His Son to the world, that all who believe in Him should not perish. Jesus was given and sent into the world, not to condemn but to save (John 3.16-17). Anyone who follows Jesus is also given and sent, and just like Jesus (John 17.18), His disciples will face persecution to one degree or another as they proclaim the Gospel message and bear witness to God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness for all.
The good news is that we are not alone as we are sent into the world. Jesus doesn’t want us to fall away when we face persecution so once again, we’re reminded of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Twice, in verse 26, Jesus says that the Spirit of Truth is sent to the church by Jesus from the Father. The Holy Spirit is present with us, speaking to and through us regarding the work and person of Jesus, bearing witness to who Jesus is and all that He has accomplished.
The Spirit of Truth, the Helper, the Advocate, stands with you always.
God bless you and know that you are constantly in my prayers.