As disciples of Jesus, there will be times when we will be criticized for our faith in Christ. 

Whatever triggers it, the bombardment makes us wonder, “Why am I going through this?”  “Am I being punished?”  Or even, “I must not be a Christian because Christians are supposed to have a ‘victorious life,’ and this certainly doesn’t feel like ‘victory’ to me!”  Perhaps the criticism even comes from other professing disciples of Jesus.

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It doesn’t always feel like “victory,” does it?

What’s worse, we don’t really like to talk about it.  Telling people the “rough parts” of Christianity is not typically the way we would think others would be attracted to the faith, but the Lord, in His sovereignty, uses adversity in our lives to hone us, sharpen us, deepen us, and help us truly become more like Him and in doing so, uses even our persecution for His glory.

It may not feel good at the time, but it’s part of our journey with Jesus.

Jesus and His disciples are still at the table of the Last Supper.  It’s just a few hours until Jesus is betrayed and crucified for the payment of our sins.  On the precipice of that journey, Jesus continues in John 15:18-25.

 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  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.  Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.  They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.  If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father.  But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’   

John 15:18-25 New International Version

If you read through the Bible (and you should), you’ve run across the Old Testament concept of the world hating the Jewish people because they were chosen by God as His people.  Jesus is turning this thought from its Jewish roots to all people united by faith through Jesus.

We should not be shocked when the world hates us.  Jesus said they would because He was hated, and we belong to Jesus (verses 18 and 19).

The purpose of these verses is to eliminate the shock factor when we are persecuted for being disciples of Christ.

Jesus reminds the disciples (and therefore us), “a servant is not great than his master” in verse 21.  Just as Jesus was persecuted, realize, my brother or sister, the reality of stepping in the path of the Master is a path inviting confrontation with the prince of this world, Satan—the adversary.

While I firmly believe the message of Jesus attracts people to Him, the message is also intolerable to those in the world.

Jesus didn’t come to put us IN chains, but to BREAK chains.  Keep this in the context of Jesus’ “farewell address” to the disciples: our love causes us to obey Jesus.  This obedience produces in us fruit for the Kingdom of God.  And the stronger our obedience, the better our fruit, the more alien we are to this world, and the more animosity many of the lost will have towards us.

In verses 23-25, Jesus reminds us that His presence in this world demonstrates the central tenant of the world’s rejection: God’s revelation.

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Ultimately, a rejection of us as disciples of Jesus is because the revelation of God the Father through Jesus has been rejected.  But in His appearing to the world, Jesus showed them everything they had rejected.

When you are walking in the light of Christ, it shows your world the same thing: everything they have rejected.

Therefore Jesus can say, “Don’t be surprised if they hate you.  They hated me first.”  Some want to talk about Jesus being “a good man.” They killed Him.  Should we, His servants, expect any better?

Being a Christian doesn’t guarantee a life that is easy, wealthy, and happy to the ultimate degree.  Jesus isn’t preparing us for a life of ease and escape; He’s preparing us for tribulation and trouble.  But verse 25 reminds us that the world’s rejection (or even acceptance) of Christ does not thwart the plan of God for humanity’s redemption.   

Instead, He walks with us through the difficulties of this life.  When we are persecuted for the cause of Jesus, we are blessed.  And even if we are not blessed in this life (which we will be), we are eternally blessed in the next.

As the old Gospel song, “God on the Mountain,” challenges:

Verse 2
We talk of faith when
We’re up on the mountain
But the talk comes easy
When life’s at its best
It’s down in the valley
Of trials and temptations
That’s when faith is
Really put to the test

For the God on the mountain
Is still God in the valley
When things go wrong
He’ll make them right
And the God of the good times
Is still God of the bad times
The God of day
Is still God of the night

“God on the Mountain”
Tracy Dartt
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