By Mike Willis
The Lord foretold that the world would hate his disciples. He said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of this world, therefore the world hateth you” (Jn. 15:18-19).
That the world would hate the gospel and its proclaimers has always baffled me. The gospel brings the greatest of blessings to man. I understand why the world should hate the liquor industry and those who sell it; alcohol has contributed to the break-up of many homes, many people losing their jobs, some becoming habitual drunks, many auto accidents, and many deaths. But the world loves its Budweiser and Busch. In contrast, the gospel saves men from sin, promises heaven at the end of this life, opens the door for men to have access to the throne of God in prayer, and gives present peace of mind, but men hate the gospel and its preachers. Is that rational?
Whether rational or not it is true. Paul promised that all who live godly will suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). That promise has not gone unfulfilled. Chafing under the persecution inflicted by the world, some men yearn for a gospel without persecution.
Christianity Without Hatred
In answer to the demand for a gospel which is without persecution, the TV evangelists have responded with the “health and wealth gospel.” These men preach a “gospel” which promises its adherents health and wealth. They preach a “Christianity” which promises the sick that they will be miraculously healed and the poor that they will become rich. They promise that Christians will be the envy of the world because of the riches of God’s temporal blessings to his children. The implication is that obedience to the gospel will bring no suffering and persecution.
In contrast to the message of the health and wealth gospel, Jesus promised these adversities to his saints.
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles . . . . And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved (Matt. 10:16-22).
The Servant Is Not Greater Than the Master
Jesus told the apostles, “The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (Jn. 15:20). The world hated Jesus. Their hatred came because Jesus exposed their sins (Jn. 7:7). Those who were wicked preferred darkness to the light (Jn. 3:20). We who are Christ’s servants should not expect better treatment from the world than Jesus received!
Nor did the early Christians receive better treatment than Christ. Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 7:53-8:1); James was beheaded (Acts 12:1-3); Paul was put to death by a Roman emperor (2 Tim. 4:6-8); John was exiled to the isle of Patmos (Rev. 1:9). The next three centuries of church history record the bitter hatred that the world had toward Christ’s disciples.
Why the World Hates Christians
Why does the world hate Christians? There are several reasons for this hatred:
1. Christians are not “of the world. ” Jesus stated that the world’s hatred toward Christians stemmed from the fact that they were not of the world; he said, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of this world, therefore the world hateth you” (Jn. 15:19). The wise man wrote, “. . . he that is upright in the way is abomination to the wicked” (Prov. 29:27). Peter stated that the world will “speak evil of you” if you do not run with them to the same excess of riot (1 Pet. 4:4).
Many of our readers have experienced the exclusion and bitter words from the world because they refused to join with the world in that which was wicked. They belittled the Christian as “holier-than-thou,” a “Bible thumper,” and other derogatory terms; they make him the butt of their jokes. Yes, the world still hates those who are not “of the world.”
2. Christians expose their sins. Paul commanded Christians, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11). Jesus said, “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved” (Jn. 3:20). Christians reprove the world’s deeds and the world responds by hating Christians.
If a person doubts that the world hates the righteous, let him conduct an experiment. The next time you hear ungodly men telling filthy jokes around you, quote what the Bible teaches about the practice and rebuke them for their sins (Eph. 5:4). Stand back and watch what happens. The next time you see someone around you drinking, tell him what God says about drinking (1 Pet. 4:3). You quickly will understand that the world hates Christians.
3. Christians teach that there is only one way to be saved. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh to the Father, but by me” (Jn. 14:6). Peter repeated this doctrine, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
The Jews could tolerate the various sects, such as Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Ebionites, Herodians, etc. These sects learned to peacefully co-exist. They could not tolerate Christianity because Christianity taught that there is but one way to be saved. The same was true among the Gentiles. The Gentiles could tolerate the worship of thousands of gods but turned to bitterly persecute Christians because they taught there is but one way to be saved.
The world can tolerate almost any doctrine to be preached from the pulpit, but the world will not tolerate any group teaching that there is one and only one way to be saved. Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics, and other denominations can peacefully co-exist. They cannot tolerate the Christian who teaches, “There is but one way to be saved.” If you doubt this, try telling your Baptist friends who teach a different plan of salvation that there is only one way to be saved (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 22:16). Watch their reaction!
4. Christians threaten the financial prosperity of the wicked. On those occasions when the gospel is so widely believed and obeyed that large numbers of men turn from their sins, the world responds with bitter persecution because their financial prosperity is effected. Demetrius, the silversmith, turned against Paul because Paul’s preaching that idolatry was sinful was interfering with the sale of his silver idols (Acts 19:24-27).
We have witnessed some forms of this same reaction to righteousness today. Abortion is big business. Where protestors at the abortion clinics interfere with the business, the abortionists turn to bitterly prosecute the protestors. Pornography is big business. When Donald Wildmon’s efforts to clean up TV are successful, the pornographers respond with bitterness toward his work.
The tobacco, liquor, gambling, and illegal drug industries also are big business. Where their sources of income are threatened, the world will respond in bitter hatred toward those destroying their business. Marcus Dods wrote,
Persecution . . . is the testimony paid by the world to the disciples’ identity with Christ. The love of the world would be a sure evidence of their unfaithfulness to Christ and of their entire lack of resemblance to him; but its hate was the tribute it would pay to their likeness to him and successful promotion of his cause. They might well question their loyalty to Christ, if the world which had slain him fawned upon them. The Christian may conclude he is reckoned a helpless and harmless foe if he suffers no persecution, if in no company he is frowned upon or felt to be uncongenial, if he is treated by the world as if its aims were his aims and its spirit his spirit (The Gospel of John, Vol. II, p. 206).
5. We are victims of the world’s slander. Another reason that the early church suffered persecution was the success of the world’s slander against Chrisitans. They were accused of being cannibals because they ate “the body and blood” of Christ; they were accused of being atheists because they refused to acknowledge that idols were gods; they were charged with insurrection because they refused to confess that “Caesar is lord”; they were charged with breaking up the family because Christianity sometimes separated family members one from another.
Twentieth century Christians also suffer from the slanderous charges of our enemies. We are charged with these following “sins”: (a) not believing the Old Testament; (b) believing in “water salvation”; (c) believing in salvation by works; (d) being narrow-minded and bigoted for believing in one true church; (e) being censorers for opposing pornography; (f) being against a woman’s civil rights for opposing abortion; (g) being right wing radicals who are intent upon binding their radical ideas of right and wrong on others. Yes, twentieth century Christians still suffer from the world’s slander.
Efforts to Avoid the World’s Hatred
No one likes to be hated. Some have reacted to the world’s hatred by compromising the gospel. Recognizing that exposing some of the popularly accepted sins (such as social drinking, immodest dress [including that worn in mixed swimming], gambling, dancing, smoking, etc.) brings the world’s hatred, some do not want these sins condemned and others do not want them condemned from the pulpit on Sunday morning when visitors might be present.
Understanding that preaching there is only the church and one way to salvation brings the world’s condemnation, some do not want preaching which mentions the denominations by name or presents a message which implies that their denominational friends might be lost. Knowing that some of their good, moral non-Christian friends might be turned off by the threat of eternal damnation, some have expressed that hell-fire and brimstone preaching is too negative!
To avert and avoid the world’s hatred, some want to water down the gospel message. First century Christians refused these compromises with the world. What will twentieth century Christians do?
Let us resolve that we shall react to the world’s persecution by considering ourselves blessed to suffer for Christ. Jesus said, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for their’s is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matt. 5:10-12).
Let us be careful not to react to the world’s persecution by a “feel sorry for me” attitude. We Christians are blessed. Even if we suffer for the gospel’s sake, we still have much to be thankful for (Acts 5:41). We have forgiveness of our sins, the hope of eternal life, the promise that God will hear and answer our prayers, the “peace that passeth all understanding,” and many other such like blessings. We have reason to rejoice, even in the face of this world’s persecutions!
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 1, pp. 2, 22-23
January 3, 1991