That may seem like a weird question, especially if you’re used to only thinking of Jesus/God saying lovely, uplifting things to us.
One of the worst things Jesus ever said, to his brothers by the way, was when he said: “the world can not hate you…” (John 7:7) This is a devastating critique to his listeners. And it may be just the very worst thing Jesus can ever say to someone.
Jesus was hated by the world because he critiqued it. In fact, he did more than critique. He told the world (his culture) that its works were evil. (John 7:7). The challenge was then thrust back upon his audience: Are you living in enough opposition to the prevailing values that it would be possible for the world to hate you? They weren’t. The world can not hate them.
That same challenge is thrust upon us as well. Are we, as Christians and followers of Jesus, living in such a way as to ruffle the feathers of the surrounding culture? Is there anything that we could be hated for?
Notice carefully that being hated for its own sake has no inherent virtue. Also note that being hated is not automatically a badge of honour – a Christian could be a jerk and be hated for that. Being hated is contingent upon living contrary, and voicing objection to, what prevails around us. It is the world that is to hate us as well, not our co-religionists. Some Christians engage in feisty debate with other Christians and generate lots of heat. They then claim that they’re doing it right. They’re not. It is the world around that we’re to find friction with, not the church we grew up in.
Greed, materialism, moral relativism, statism are all around us – do our lives as disciples ever challenge these? Absolute freedom in sex is demanded by our culture; just try and challenge that sacred cow – do we ever get in the line of fire of that? Do we live in such a way as to not consume as much as we can? And do we ever challenge the consumerism around us? Do we ever speak up for the most vulnerable among us – the unborn, the disabled, the refugee, the poor?
It is when we witness to a different story, with both ours lives and voices, that we find resistance. A story where wealth and status are not worth what they’re thought to, when sexuality and gender are not ours to rearrange but sacred gifts to be received, where not human life is disposable or value-less. It’s here where we find ourselves even hated for what we believe and testify to.
Is there enough resistance to the world in our lives to be hated for it? Would Jesus be able to say “the world cannot hate you”, to us?