A Voice in the
"These things I command you, that you love one another. If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before you." (15:17-18)
Back when this series from the Gospel of John began, a year and a half ago, I could never have guessed that this lesson would end up being timed so perfectly, coordinating with 'current' world events. This past Thursday, while the US was celebrating "Thanksgiving", the Israeli people were electing a leader who wishes to go contrary to God's Law regarding their God-given land, instead of the man who boldly proclaims that Israel cannot negotiate with terrorists, nor give them a 'nation' within Israel to further their terrorism. So it seems that God allowed Israel's enemies to coordinate several multiple, simultaneous attacks against Israel.
Currently, the forces of hate are situated -globally-. Islamic Jihad (holy war) against Israel and anything that smacks of being so-called "Christian". Islam hates Israel. Islam hates Christians. And why is this so? Because they hate Jesus Christ; and ultimately, God the Father, Himself.
Notice the contrast of the two opening verses. Jesus commands His disciples to "love one another". In fact, the disciple-of-love later comments, "By this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments" (1Jn2:3) Jesus commanded that His followers love one another. Now if a person claims to be a follower of God, but "hates his brother" he "is in darkness until now." (1Jn2:9) By definition, "darkness" means "unsaved". And when (true) [C]hristian brethren are being obedient to God, keeping His commandments, and also loving one another; if there are others who are attacking, persecuting and martyring Christ's followers, by that very -disagreement- of their holding to different beliefs and doctrines, they prove themselves to not be of God. John says it this way, "We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error." (1Jn4:6)
However, there is an even more-sinister element that hates God. While Islam openly, defiantly hates God; the element that is even more dangerous than Islam is that which -calls- itself "Christian", but is not. It is that which proclaims the doctrine of "Tolerance". They look at Islam (the religion of hate, that goes around massacring people by the hundreds and thousands, just simply for not being Muslim) and call it (as our US president does) a "peaceful" religion. On the other hand, they look at (true) Christians who seek to "be at peace with all men" (Rom12:18), but also don't desire to see sinners lost, so faithfully proclaim God's "acceptable year of the Lord" (Lk4:19) of Salvation through Jesus Christ, refusing to be tainted by the world's filth; but even though (true) Christians don't lay a hand of animosity upon anyone, their words of God's love through Jesus Christ and of one's desire to live holy separated lives unto the One who "loved us and gave Himself for us" (Eph5:2)... such a life is called, by them, "hate".
Jesus in this passage speaks of "the world". (vs19) It's real easy for (true) Believers to look at Islam and know that it is part of "the world". It is easy to see those scoffers we work next to at our jobs, listening to them talk about their drunken orgies and everything else perverse that comprises their lives, and know they are of "the world". It is easy to flip channels on the TV, with all its perversities, and know it's of "the world".
But equally part of "the world" is that which calls itself "christian", but is not. If they are not "in Christ" (2Cor5:17), they are not saved. Anyone who is not saved is of "the world". For all their "christian" labels, and their speaking to (true) Believers about being our "brothers"... THEY ARE NOT. They are of "THE WORLD". But it rips our emotions out dealing with them, because for everything, they have the -appearance-, at first glance, of being "[C]hristian". But Jesus exhorts, "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment." (Jn7:24)
I know that many of you (this article is more -to- 'True' Christians this month) have struggled with this. It is appropriate for me to write this article, because I have first-hand experience. I dare say that, throughout my lifetime, any 'persecution' I experienced came predominantly from that which had the label "Christian". Around unbelievers I might get into discussions of "religious" things, or fellow-workers might good-naturedly give me ribbings over my not joining them in their after-work bar-scene activities, or take notice that I didn't join in, in their dirty stories, etc. But they would not politic me out of something, or meet me to beat me up, or any of the things one might associate with "persecution". The persecution I have experienced has pretty much 'all' been in "the church".
So, let's look at what Jesus says. Also, I really believe the chapter demarcation for "ch16" is unfortunate, because the first few verses of ch16 are actually, really, still part of the discussion which ends ch15. Let's continue...
What Jesus said in these verses -already- happened back during the 1st century after Jesus returned to the Father. But I think we will readily understand that the same happens today. When Jesus speaks of "synagogue" (16:2), I think we can plug in the word "church" for today.
First of all let us understand Jesus' love for His followers. He does not wish for us to "stumble". (16:1) All this talk about hate and persecution is not very "uplifting" is it. But Paul, also, was busy "[warning] everyone night and day with tears". (Ac20:31) Jesus' -love- is not manifest to us by continually saying to us, "I love you, I love you, I love you". No. His love gives us direction, warning and encouragement... because He knows just how perverse this world is. He knows just how deceitful satan and his pretend "ministers of righteousness" are. (2Cor11:13-15) And He does not wish us to "stumble".
Thus... He has told us -before- the persecution comes. He does not do like some parents do, when they 'lie' to their child about to get a shot, "Oh, it won't hurt at all"...and then the needle sticks, and it 'hurts'..."Waaaaaa!!" He does as a parent should, "It's going to hurt a little. But it won't be too bad. It will be over with before you know it. Be brave."
Jesus says, "But these things I have told you, that WHEN IT COMES, you may REMEMBER that I told you of them.." (16:4) The things of this lesson Jesus -KNEW- would be part of our existence as Believers in this world.
And -WHERE-, does Jesus say, does the persecution come from? "They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.." (16:2)
When the early Church was persecuted and scattered away from Jerusalem, where did the persecution come from? The Jews. The very same ones, the temple -leaders-, who had crucified Jesus. We won't look up all the references now, but when Paul was persecuted, stoned and beaten, -who- was doing all that? The Jews. Whatever gentiles might have gotten into the act usually only did so as part of the mob, which the -Jews- stirred up. Rome didn't get into the act until quite a few years later. And then, once Israel was dispersed, where did most persecution come from? The Roman -church-. The "inquisitions" were carried out by the -church-. Now, today, that the 'church' of Rome has adopted a more 'tolerant' stance, where does persecution for the True Believer come from? The -church-...only, now, it is not necessarily headquartered in Rome. It is the church that sings worship songs, preaches from the Bible, and has a worldly hierarchical organization; and has been inviting the world into its meetings for so many years, that a person can no longer easily distinguish who is saved, and who is not. Just as Israel had their "mixed multitude" (Ex12:38, Num11:4) from Egypt in their ranks, always stirring up rebellion against God, they have not been obedient to "..separate all the mixed multitude from Israel.." (Neh13:3) But the mixed multitude participates, leads in worship; and after they've been there awhile, they also become teachers and preachers. In other words, the fox has put on some 'feathers' and is guarding the hen-house! The fox has let other foxes in, and they have all put on 'feathers', and so, when the foxes lunge at the -real- chickens, the chickens don't understand the attacks.
What are you trying to say? That only -you- are a true 'chicken', and we are not? Look at all our feathers! Do we not flap our wings and cluck? How can you say we are not chickens? How can all-these-feathers be so wrong, and -only- 'you' be right? And one-by-one, chicken after chicken "stumbles" into the mouth of the devouring fox, and as the fox grows, they beget more foxes (foxes do not lay eggs to hatch chicks! And what eggs the chickens lay, the foxes gobble them up, too!), and the chickens become dwindled down to nothing. But, the foxes are flapping their feathers, and clucking "offering God service". (16:2b) And the head-fox tells all the pups that they must be on a campaign. The only way they can get their feathers to flap, is to "serve God" by killing the chickens and plucking their feathers for themselves. But, they are FOXES!
So, now that we have identified the 'source', what is the nature of the hate, and 'why' does it come? They are -of- "the world". The believer is -not- of the world. Jesus was not of the world. He said to Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world.." (18:36) The believer's "citizenship is in Heaven". (Php3:20) We are "..foreigners and pilgrims on the earth". (Heb11:13) Like the words of that old song: "This world is not my home, I'm just a passin' through; my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue...and I can't feel at home in this world anymore.."
Why does the so-called 'church' persecute (true) Christians? Because they persecuted Christ. They crucified Him. Jesus is our "Master". When armies fight, the individual combatants are not necessarily fighting the 'individuals' of the opposing army; but the militaries are fighting on behalf of their respective commanders-in-chief, and the governments they represent. During the last two World Wars, at X-mass time, when they would momentarily lay down arms, groups of individuals from opposing sides would get together to celebrate. And even today, years after those conflicts have been long-since-over, individual combatants have been known to meet each other in "friendship". But in a military sense, they were enemies, because the governments over them, giving the orders, were at enmity with each other. In the same way, when the world persecutes Christians, it is not the 'individuals' with whom they are at odds. It is Jesus Christ. And it is not 'they' who are at odds with Christ; it is the devil, who is "as their father". (Jn8:44) When a person takes up allegiance under a master, by definition, they also take upon themselves everything that master represents. If they follow satan, they take upon themselves satan's hate for Jesus Christ; and they make war with the woman's "seed, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." (Rev12:17)
The 'authority' for John's words which we quoted earlier, "He who knows God, hears us.." (1Jn4:6) comes from Jesus: "If they kept My Word, they will keep yours also." (15:20) When they taunt, "So you think that little -lone- YOU is right, and ALL-OF-US are wrong?" they don't understand the authority for the -truth- the 'lone' individual is proclaiming, when countering their false doctrines and practice. It is not -me- saying this, 'against' all-of-you... it is -Jesus- saying it. Jesus is my Master, and I am His servant... I am merely giving His Words. You may have more 'numbers' on your side of 'the world', but I am "with Jesus". (Ac4:13)
If you, as a (true) Believer, stick to God's Word, and 'they' oppose you, they are not opposing -you-, but Jesus. And by this, also, you can know that they are not of God. And for all their words of "love" and "tolerance", they are in reality proving that they "hate you". (15:19)
And consider this most interesting dichotomy: Those who proclaim most vehemently and vociferously the doctrine of "TOLERANCE", -themselves- are MOST -[IN]TOLERANT- when it comes to (true) Christians, and God's Word. Those who repeatedly condemn so-called "hate speech", themselves -HATE- (true) Christians. When Christians proclaim God's -love- in Salvation, they -hate- the Christian. Why? Because they -hate- Jesus Christ. And, while they speak of "god" all the time, in truth, their hate for Jesus Christ is actually also a hate for God. "He who hates Me hates My Father also." (15:23)
Is there anything that can be done to "win" the 'world' of the 'church'? Do you wonder -why- these 'christians' are attacking you? Are they starting to 'get-to' you, such that you are beginning to doubt God's Word that you -know- in your heart? They call you "brothers", trying to create a camaraderie with you, to say that you and they are the 'same'; therefore you should love and tolerate them, and accept their false doctrines.
Just remember, Dear Saint (Rom1:7) in Jesus Christ: You and they are -NOT- the same. They are -NOT- your "brothers". The fact that they proclaim an "other gospel" (Gal1:8-9) makes them "accursed". They do not tolerate your steadfastness to God's Word -because- "they do not know Him who sent [Christ]". (15:21) They may call themselves "brothers" with you, but they are NOT SAVED. That's why they do not tolerate the Biblical doctrines to which you cling; and instead call it "judgmental" and "hateful". If they were, they would be in agreement with you, because there is only "one Spirit" (Eph4:4) Who gave the Scriptures (2Pt1:21) "once for all" (Ju1:3) who "guides" us "into all Truth". (Jn16:13) So, if they don't have this same Holy Spirit you do, but a different spirit by which they proclaim "other" docrines, by definition, they do not belong to God. (Rom8:9)
Can they be won for Christ? Very rarely! If they have heard God's Truth, and then go get "spirit-filled" with satan's demons, "..the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be unto this wicked generation." (Mt12:45) And Jesus says, "..but now they have no excuse for their sin." (15:22)
There are many who say they are staying "in" the system, to try to be a "witness" to them, to win them. It won't likely happen. What is more likely is that they will drag you down with them into compromise. Remember, they are NOT SAVED. And Paul is quite clear about a Believer's relationship with someone who -claims- to be "Christian", but is like the devil: "..now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother...not even to eat with such a person.." (1Cor5:11) Do not tolerate them, and engage in friendly 'dialogue' with them, nor consent to "fellowship" with them. They are of the world, but pretend to be "christian". They are of the worst sort! The rest of the world may not know God's Word, and are in "ignorance" for which "God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.." (Ac17:30)
But for those who have God's Word, and rebel, Paul declared to the Jews: "Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, that they should not see with their eyes nor hear with their ears, that they should not understand with their hearts and turn, and I should heal them. Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!" (Ac28:27-28)
And for Believers who find themselves in the midst of these unbelievers, calling themselves "church", but who are not saved, the Word is clear:
"Therefore, Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you." (2Cor6:17) "Come out of her, my people, so that you not share in her sins, and so that you not receive of her plagues" (Rev18:4)
If your experience is at all like some of mine have been, when you come out of them, it will be with sparks. It will be because there were Scriptural differences: They were being disobedient, and you were wanting to be faithful...and so, you will have been proclaiming God's Word, God's Truth to them. This is what Jesus said about those who truly have God's Holy Spirit...
"..the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness concerning Me. And you also will bear witness, because you are with Me from the beginning." (15:26-27)