The life, testimony, ministry, and teachings of one Jesus from Nazareth
Have you ever been on a walk in the woods and found a fruit-bearing apple tree in the midst of the wild, overgrown forest? It’s such an unexpected blessing, a thing of beauty in the midst of an untamed wilderness and the only thing bearing life-giving fruit. So also, we, as fruitful branches abiding in the Vine, are like rare apple trees living amidst a forest of evergreens, hardwoods, or conifers. And just like the wild forest slowly tries to overgrow the lone fruit-bearing tree, so also the depraved and perverted world we live in slowly tries to squeeze us until we break. However, in John 15, Jesus told His disciples—which includes us!—to expect this.
“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 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.”
fact of the matter is the world should hate us. We are the disciples of Christ and ought to be little likenesses of Him. Therefore, since the world hated our Savior, so also it will hate us. It would actually be a problem if the world didn’t hate us but loved us instead! Why? Look back at what Jesus said, “if you were of the world, the world would love you as its own.” So if the world loves us then it means that we have not truly come out of the world. Thus the world’s hatred of us is a mark of our faith and should be viewed as a good thing because it shows that we have truly followed Jesus’ call to leave the world and it’s system and follow completely after Him.
But what does the word hate really mean? And how does it look in everyday life? The Strong’s definition is “to detest, by extension to love less”. This definition shows the two degrees of hatred: 1) a strong, zealous, passionate dislike and feeling of abhorrence or 2) to love less, not like as much, or prefer not to be around. And both degrees bring as a byproduct persecution. Now, does persecution necessarily mean that we’ll be thrown in prison, tortured, or even killed for our faith? No, it doesn’t. Though all those things are forms of persecution and we see them happening to believers around the world, they are not exclusive, but belong to the first degree of the world’s hatred—strong abhorrence. In America, our culture has not yet reached that degree of hatred, but shows the second level—to love less—and this is a form of persecution. It might mean that we’re not popular among our peers, face ridicule, don’t fit in, are disliked by some, have more enemies than the average person, or are looked down upon. Now none of these things sound like fun or something we’d willingly sign up for, but rather scary, uncomfortable, and awkward. However, to be hated by the world or not, or to be persecuted for our faith or not is not something we get to choose. We can’t tell God, “Yes, I’ll follow You, but I don’t want to be hated by anyone or persecuted for my choice.” No! Following Jesus and persecution are a package deal. As Jesus told His disciples, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” Notice He didn’t say might, he said, “they will”. It’s a guarantee and promise that those who are true servants of the King of Kings will, at some point in their lives, face persecution from the world. So while in the relative safety of this country, we might not face death or imprisonment for our faith, we should be facing some sort of discrimination.
Therefore, the questions is…are YOU hated by the world and thus proving your new citizenship? Or does the world love you, showing that you are still one of theirs? And are you facing persecution for your faith or are you fitting right into the world and its system? Have you purposed to abide in the Vine and bear fruit no matter how hard the outside world bears down upon you? In short, are you being faithful to your purpose as a branch of the One True Vine?
In closing, let’s remember the image of the lone, fruit-bearing apple tree in the midst of the wilderness and purpose to stay strong no matter how hard our environment pushes and squeezes us and to take hold of these encouraging words from the Apostle Peter regarding persecution and trials:
“But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” ~1 Peter 4:13-14