John 15:17-18

I remember when I first started taking discipleship to Jesus seriously. There were a few things Jesus taught I really struggled to put into practice. At the top of that list was his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount when he said,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? (Matthew 5:43-46)

I wanted to say, “Well, of course, that’s the way the tax collectors respond, that’s the way we all respond.” The way of the world is that we love those who love us and hate those who hate us. We have a quid pro quo relationship with the world – we give back what we receive.

However, Jesus wanted to break his followers from that kind of thinking. He called them into a new way of being. He claimed that his disciples were to love even when they were hated. It seemed that Jesus would go so far as to state that there was nothing someone could do that would give his followers the right to hate. Listen to what Jesus taught in John 15. He said,

“These things I command you so that you will love one another. If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. (John 15:17-18)

I’d summarize Jesus’ teaching: The world is going to hate you, but you are to love. Hatred from the world does not eliminate Jesus’ calling to love. Wow! That’s so countercultural that we struggle to believe that he’s teaching a way of being that would actually lead to life and joy. The way of the world is so programmed into us that we have a hard time imagining what it would look like to love even when we are hated.

What Jesus is teaching is hard to do. I think it’s impossible to do if we expect everyone to love us. Jesus is preparing his disciples for the resistance that they’re going to face so that they can continue to love when they’re hated. He wants to prepare you for the same thing. Your faith may very well ostracize you from friends and family. It may cause you to lose friends, to be ridiculed in the public sphere, and to be mocked at your workplace. However, none of that frees us from the calling to love. We can hold our convictions while extending the love of Jesus to others – and that’s the very space Jesus calls us to inhabit.

Today, think about the ways that you may be experiencing rejection because of your faith, and then ask the Spirit to strengthen you to continue to love.

Pastor Ryan Paulson

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