“Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you” (1 John 3:12-13)
It is not very nice, and even the thought of it is unpleasant, to be hated and rejected by those around us. But let us remind ourselves, that no matter how much the world hates us, God loves us much more than we will ever realise on this side of eternity.
“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 the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19).
It is not always possible to judge a person’s character by the company he keeps, but we can do so by who his enemies are. The unsaved world loves its own, but detests all who truly follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
Somehow some Christians are surprised that others hate them. Surely they ought to be loved, honoured and respected for being good citizens, peaceful and charitable! But if the world hated and killed the Master, why should we expect better treatment? “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). They called Him every evil name under the sun, therefore they will do so to us also. “It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?” (Matthew 10:25).
Our enemies can be found amongst so-called Christians too. It was the religious leaders who were responsible for the persecution and death of the Saviour. Stephen summed this up well enough at his own trial and death at the hands of those who had hated and rejected Christ. “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers” (Acts 7:52).
The way of the world
Nothing really changes with regards to the persecution of the people of God. It was like this at the very beginning of time when Cain slew his brother Abel. Why did Cain hate his brother so much? Because Abel wanted to faithfully serve and obey the Lord. “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bore Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. And she again bore his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him” (Genesis 4:1-8). This is the whole history of Israel, the world and the false church. “Thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee” (Matthew 23:37).
Why do they hate us?
“Who was of the wicked one – Who showed he was a child of the devil by killing his brother. And wherefore slew he him – For any fault? No, but just the reverse; for his goodness” (John Wesley).
The world does not mind if we go by the name Christian, as long as we do not practice what we preach. True Christianity makes people feel very uncomfortable. “Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you” (1 Peter 4:4) … ” For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved” (John 3:20). They see us as a threat to their impure ways, and our presence is a rebuke to their sin and a reminder of their coming judgement.
There cannot be a true believer alive today, nor has one ever existed, who has not experienced hatred, opposition, rejection and hostility for the cause of Christ. As soon as we make a stand for the Lord, we are going to feel and know the wrath of Satan and those who receive his wages. We can rejoice in the knowledge that we are in good company when we face persecution. “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:12).