I am linking up this morning with Rachel Anne and my Company Girl friends.
A couple of weeks ago I was reading chapter 17 of the Gospel of John. Verses 13-18 sort of jumped out at me. This paragraph is part of a longish prayer that Jesus offered just a few hours before his arrest. And he knew he was about to be arrested, as I discuss in an earlier post. Granted, he was talking to his Father and not to his eleven remaining disciples (Judas having already gone), but he deliberately prayed while they were in the room, for their benefit (see verse 13). Especially this part when he was praying specifically for them. I’m glad that John, at least, was all ears and recorded Jesus’ prayer for us. If you think about it, his words answer a puzzling question for believers.
In verse 13, Jesus makes it clear he is speaking in the disciples’ presence “so that they may have the full measure of [his] joy within them.” But in the very next sentence, he points out that “the world has hated” those same disciples. At first glance, this seems a bit of a paradox. Who gets their kicks out of being hated?
Ah, but that question attributes the effect to the wrong cause. No one gains joy from being alienated. Rather, as Jesus goes on to say (in verse 14), “… the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.”
Those who trust and follow Jesus are no longer really part of this world. It is not that “the world” changed its mind about them; it is that they have become something different — a new creation* that no longer fits into the world system.
So the question is, why the hostility toward believers?
Well, the world system is essentially a slave state. People trying to be free of God end up obeying Satan, the enemy of their souls, instead. Yet they cannot see their own chains. They do not even realize that they are slaves.
When people trust Christ, he forgives their rebellion, releases them from guilt, and gives them access to his righteousness. That’s where the joy comes from: our broken chains. Freed from slavery to sin, we can enjoy God’s protection and friendship.
But, though a few will follow, many who remain in slavery will resent the one who has been freed. Hence the alienation. And sometimes we Christians make it worse by forgetting that the people who now hate us are still slaves under the world system–just like we used to be. After all, we cannot see their chains either. We are tempted to perceive these folks as enemies rather than as the prisoners that they are. (Yeah, I know — we screw up in other ways, too, but I don’t want to stray off the point here.) So if someone hates me because of my faith, I should (a) not be surprised; and (b) respond with compassion instead of anger.
My word for the year is Grace. May I extend to others the same grace that Jesus offers all sinners — including me.
* See 2 Corinthians 5:17
Thanks for reading!