“If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world– therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19)
Is it possible to love someone who hates you? This is the challenge Jesus poses for us today. In John 15:12, Jesus tells us: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus is not simply asking us to love people, He wants us to love as He loved and how did He love? By laying down His life for us.
However, within the same passage, Jesus warns that when we love others, we should not expect love in return. Rather than love us, the world hates us just as it hated Jesus. Simply put, Jesus is asking us to love and even lay down our very lives for people who would readily return hatred in place of love. This is where the Christian life practically becomes a cross.
The question is: “Why does the world hate us so much?” Jesus answers: “Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.” Honestly, this is fact that many Christians do not want to accept today and it one of the side-effects of the gospel of prosperity; a gospel that defines salvation as material riches, a gospel of “possessing one’s possession.”
If it is true that we do not belong to this world and Jesus has chosen us out of the world, then it means the only possession we must strive to possess is not this world but heaven. As such, rather than get involved with fights over the things of this world, we must learn to let go. This is the key to loving those who hate us.
The next question is: “What is there to gain from loving those who hate us? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus answers this question when He said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-45).
Until we begin to love those who hate us, we cannot claim to be children of God. A heart that does not forgive is a heart that is yet to receive Christ. Until we stop praying for our enemies to die, we cannot claim to be children of God. Jesus says “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; (Matthew 5:38-39)
Surely, this is hard. It needs courage and self-sacrifice. It is an uncomfortable job but we would not run away from it. It was with this spirit of self-sacrifice that Paul went about carrying out his mission of evangelization to various towns and villages. Paul did not mind the challenges and persecutions he was facing. He was not discouraged because within his heart, he knew that he did not belong to this world and that even if he died, a better place lay ahead for him.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, teach me to love just as you loved. Amen.
Bible Study: Acts 16:1-10, Psalm 100 and John 15:18-21).