John 15:18-19, NIV
18 "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.
19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.
As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you
out of the world. That is why the world hates you."

January 10, 2012
It's hard I think for people in the United States to identify with these
words about the world hating us.  Most people we come into contact
with do not hate Christians.  Yet we don't have to go far beyond our
borders to find people who do hate us, not because of Jesus, but
probably more frequently for something related to wealth--our wealth
and their lack of it.  And if we travel into other parts of the world we
may find people who hate us for one reason only, because we are
Christian in the broad sense of that word.

But I don't think our situation today in America is what Jesus was
talking about.  He is instructing his disciples as he is about to leave
them.  He will be tried, convicted, and then crucified for his "crimes." 
For blasphemy, for speaking truth to power, for being a trouble maker,
for not conforming to the traditional practices of the religion into which
he was born.  Jesus called the reaction of the authorities hatred. 
Because the "world" hated him, he knew his disciples would also
be hated.

A square peg does not fit into a round hole.  In the same way his
disciples no longer fit into the prescribed mold of their religion, or their
community.  They did not belong.

This is an issue present with us today.  As a teenager I was instructed
not to conform to anything which denied my faith in Jesus.  Even if
I had to stand alone, I was to be firm in my commitment.

Standing firm is expressed in many ways.  For some, it means
dressing in a certain way that sets them apart.  For others, it means
abstaining from certain behaviors or habits.  Most of us don't like to
stand alone, so we form small groups that believe as we do.  In
Lancaster County where I live these groups are easily recognizable. 

Then there are other Christians who put more emphasis on right
beliefs.  These believers range from one extreme to the other, and
when their beliefs are scrutinized by "the world", they are often
ridiculed.  A group on one end of the spectrum may even hate,
through word or deed, those at the opposite end .  Social issues
also evoke heated reactions when there is a litmus test to determine
if someone believes the right thing.

Once I matured beyond my teenage years I became much more
moderate and seemed to avoid taking a stand that would set me
apart.  The pendulum swung too far in the other direction.  I didn't
want anyone to hate or mock me or my beliefs. 

Jesus admonished his disciples to stand out, not blend in.  They
belonged to him and that should make them different from those
who rejected Jesus.  They were to be light in a dark world. 

Bringing light into the darkness is open to various interpretations.  And
each of us needs to determine how to do that.  Will it invoke hate, love,
or indifference?  Probably some of each.

I could also argue that Jesus said, "If or When the world hates you . . ."  
That would make these words a statement of comfort.   Remember,
if/when you are attacked for your faith, that Jesus was treated the
same way.  If/When you feel like you don't belong, know that you
do belong to Jesus.


                                                  John 15:20-21, NIV
20 "Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater
than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you
also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.
21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do
not know the One who sent me."


January 11, 2012
Don't expect to be treated any better than they treated Jesus.  That's
a sobering statement.  But there was a lot more to his life than his
crucifixion.  Lots of people enjoyed being near Jesus, loved to listen
to his stories and watch how he interacted with people.

These disciples would have many more good experiences than bad
ones.   But if/when the persecution comes, remember they persecuted
Jesus also.  Because those who persecute do not know the Father
who loved the world so much that he sent his beloved son to bring
everlasting life to all who believe.  Since they did not know the Father,
they did not recognize the Son either.


                                            John 15:22-25, NIV
22 "If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be
guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin.
23 He who hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done
among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of
sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have
hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is
written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason.'"

January 11, 2012
Now here's the tragic part.  There's no guilt if you don't know, but if you
know, and ignore what you know, then you are guilty.  Sadly, Jesus is
expressing the awful fact that these people who hate him will have no
excuse.  They have heard the good news.  They have seen the
miracles--those good and wonderful works of God.   Yet they have
refused God's messenger.  Not only did they refuse to believe, they
are plotting his death.

What more can Jesus do than to find comfort in the ancient Scriptures. 
"They hated me without a cause."  Words not original with Jesus.  He
was not the first to be hated because he conveyed God's message
to God's people.  He will not be the last.  


                                             John 16:1-4, NIV
1 "All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. 2 They
will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when
anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.
3 They will do such things because they have not known the
Father or me. 4 I have told you this, so that when the time
comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you
this at first because I was with you."

January 12, 2012

Jesus wants to be the one to tell his disciples these things.  It would
be better that way, then for them to find out later and feel like Jesus
had betrayed them. 

Being put out of the synagogue was not a new occurrence for
these disciples.  They had already seen that some of the people
Jesus had healed were tossed out because they believed in the
one who healed them.

But Jesus doesn't stop there.  He raises the possibility that the
disciples will be killed by people who think they are doing God a favor
by doing so!  What an eye opener that is.  It was not only a possibility,
in all likelihood it would happen to them.  Jesus knew this, and he
wanted to tell his disciples now, upfront, so they would not be
surprised, alarmed, mystified, and unable to explain what or why
these things were happening to them.

Jesus explained why.  We could identify many possible reasons--a
struggle for power and authority, threats to the status quo, fear, etc. 
But Jesus said the bottom line, the great underlying reason, is that
they "knew neither him nor his Father."  They had failed to recognize
God in their midst as Jesus walked among them.  Even the good
deeds and works of God which he did daily, did not convince them. 
They were blind and deaf and remained that way to the end.

Therefore, the disciples were not to be alarmed, or feel misled by
Jesus.  He was telling them now because while he was with them
they were safe.  But now that Jesus was leaving them, their lives
would eventually be in danger.  When that time came, the disciples
were not to doubt and lose their faith in him.  Instead he gave this 
warning, so that when the time came they would continue to abide
in the vine, and remain firm in their belief that they were sent by
God to bear fruit by bringing their testimony to people everywhere.

We hear over and over again in these chapters that it does not
matter if Jesus is dead or with them in person, they would continue
to live in him.  Their future joy and happiness did not require a
physical Jesus.  It did require that they continue to abide in him,
and continue to bear fruit for the kingdom.

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