“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 keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.” John 15:20–21
As Christians we’ve gotten weak and spoiled when it comes to our ability to face persecution. We seem to have an attitude, or expectation, that when we accepted Jesus as Lord, Savior, and friend that life would somehow smooth out, we’d be blessed by God and we’d begin to experience a bit of heaven on earth.
Where do get expectations like that? Not from Jesus. Not from the example set by the life he experienced, and not from what he taught his disciples to expect.
Just a few verse before our focus text John record Jesus saying, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.”
The greek word for hate, miseo, doesn’t bear quite the same meaning as the english word for hate. Our English word means that we feel or have an “intense or passionate dislike for someone or something.” When I was a boy my father taught me that if I said I hated someone I was telling them that I wished they were dead, or that I would be happy if they were killed. The greek word for hate literally means “to love less.” It’s not required that I have an intense or passionate feeling of dislike I just need to love less.
Here’s the danger for us of people loving Jesus and his followers less in this world. Jesus has an adversary, an enemy at work in this world making war on him and everything he does and everyone he loves. If a person accepts Christ’s love and becomes his follower they then become a participant in the persecution Christ experiences in the world.
We don’t have to expand on, or logically apply, Jesus’ teachings in order for us to discover this warning. Jesus told his disciples directly, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”
Given the multiple warnings scripture contains regarding what kind of treatment Christ’s followers are to expect from the world it strikes me as being ridiculous that we think somethings gone horribly wrong when hatred and persecution rears it’s ugly head because we’re disciples of Christ.
Friends, persecution doesn’t come because something’s gone wrong. Persecution, and all kinds trials, come because Jesus is in our lives making us right.
Jesus message for his disciples down through the ages has been, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Trouble will come. Some of it will be from other people persecuting us because we choose to put our faith in Jesus and follow his teaching in the Bible, and some of our troubles will come because we’re still sojourning in a sinful, sin filled world. We don’t need to fear as if something new has gone wrong. Jesus knew things would be this way and his plan takes these things into account. He’s already overcome them and in his strength we can too.