“If everyone hates you, you must be doing something right as a Christian.”
It’s a common enough mentality and I hear some version of that on a regular basis. And I get it. If you’re going to believe, obey, and share the teachings of Jesus and His disciples (who got their teaching from Him), you’re not always going to be liked. Whether it’s homosexuality and marriage, respecting your government and those in authority, or a thousand other possibilities, you’re going to end up making somebody uncomfortable. And when people are uncomfortable, they tend to get mad. It’s just the way we work.
That’s intimidating. We all want to be liked. But it’s also to be expected. Some of the last words Jesus spoke to His apostles before His death were specifically to prepare them for that reality. To tell them that they would be hated, but it would be worth it because it meant that they belonged to Jesus.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 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.”
Jesus meant for those words to bring comfort to the twelve, and they’ve been recorded and passed down so that they can do the same for us today. When we find ourselves being rejected, we can find peace in knowing we’re accepted by God. When we’re hurt by others, we can count on God to heal us. When we feel different and like we don’t fit in, it’s because we don’t and our true belonging lies in being a part of God’s kingdom.
Christianity is not for the faint of heart. The teachings of Jesus are hard. He demands everything from us. Not just following rules – that would be easier. He asks us to commit every part of ourselves to Him and what He asks of us every second of every day for our entire lives. Few are going to want to do it. And sometimes people will hate you because that’s the path you choose. John was beheaded because he told a non-Christian king his marriage to his brother’s ex-wife wasn’t lawful in the eyes of God. That’s an intense reaction.
Follow God anyway. It’s worth it. Absolutely and eternally.
If you constantly find yourself defending accusations of intolerance and cruelty because of your beliefs, it might be time to evaluate your approach.
The Gospel is about love. That’s the core of everything. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Christians are called to follow that example of love in every aspect of our lives. That absolutely doesn’t mean pretending the Bible says “yes” where it clearly says “no”. Hard teachings, narrow road, and all that business, remember? Jesus asked His followers to prove their love by keeping His commandments (John 14:15). We show our love for Him today by continuing to keep them and show our love for others by teaching them to do the same.
But there’s no need to be a jerk about it.
When people refuse to obey God, that’s on them. They will ultimately be held accountable for their decision. But if our only contribution is uncaringly outlining their sins and impending judgment and walking away in self-righteous satisfaction that we did what we could, then we’ll be held accountable for that as well.
Listen to Peter, when he writes to “honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
Listen to Paul, who would “endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:12).
Look to Jesus, who convinced a tax collector to repay his wicked gains, a Samaritan woman that she wasn’t living appropriately and that He was the Christ, and a sinful woman to repent and offer one of the most humble acts imaginable. Each time, He won a soul not by harsh rebukes, but by showing love where they didn’t expect to find it.
It’s hard to let go of sin. It’s hard for Christians to do it, so why should we expect it to be easier for those who haven’t made that commitment? People need patience and forgiveness and love. Show people love where they don’t expect.
Take comfort in the fact that the kingdom of Heaven is waiting for those who are persecuted for obeying God, but never, ever take pride in being hated for taking a bold, unfeeling stand. We’re called to be lights pointing people toward Christ, not a burning inferno that tears down everything in our path. If you’re going to be hated, let it be because of the message you’re sharing and not because of the way you choose to share it.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”
(1 Corinthians 13:1)