“Don’t be surprised when they hate you,” Jesus told his disciples.
Who hated Jesus the most? Those who were in positions of religious power were the most hateful. The government establishment was indifferent. They were more concerned with keeping the peace, and if that meant allowing the religious crowd to kill off some rebel rouser then so be it. Those in control cannot be bothered by Love. Love has no place in the halls of power, whether it is in the halls of religious power or political power.
The religious leaders in Jesus day were self-righteous in their own eyes, but they sought to have Jesus executed using lies. They were so “righteous” that they wouldn’t enter Pilate’s house in order to not defile themselves because of the Passover, but they were willing to lie and bribe in order to have an innocent man executed to save their power. (John 18:28)
Jesus is the King of kings, but it has nothing to do with political power. Jesus once said they knew “the letter of the law, but didn’t know the Spirit behind the law.”
Why did the religious leaders despise Jesus? Jesus was taking away their power over the people. They were losing their control. When they lost control, the political authorities would come down on them, or their positions of authority would be questioned. When it finally came down to it, the religious leaders and their minions declared, “We have no king but Caesar.” Hmm. (John 19:15)
I heard a Jewish story once about after the Jewish people finished crossing over the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s troops were drowned, the Jewish refugees were cheering and dancing over the troop deaths. God looked down on His people and scolded them. He told them, “Don’t be cheering and dancing over their deaths. Don’t you realize I love them too?” (Proverbs 24:17 “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles”)
Some people look at ‘being hated for Christ’ as a badge of honor. I believe Jesus mourns over everyone who dies without Him. His heart breaks for all who hate Him. He wasn’t telling us that we should be proud of being hated for His name sake; He was letting us know not to be surprised. Because, sometimes people who don’t take sides are simply trying to love each side of an argument are usually hated by both sides because they don’t take a side.
But, these people who are quote, unquote hated for Christ, are they really ‘hated for Christ’s sake,” or are they just hated because they are jerks? Are these same people willing to go the extra mile for those who are the least of these or do they feel justified claiming that “they got what they deserved?” Are we willing to love those who laugh at us, or are we content to just claim martyrdom?
We need to ask ourselves are we trying to love people for Christ whether they like us or not, or are we just wanting to win an argument because it makes us feel superior? Are we being hated because we simply want to love people and try to share Christ or because we are arrogant and self-righteous?
Jesus was hated by the religious community because he was “a friend of sinners and publicans.” I hope I can be hated for the same reasons.