Do you ever feel like nobody likes you? Or maybe you just feel like SOMEbody doesn’t like you? The fact is that we can’t all be liked by everyone all the time. I’ve told many young people that no matter who they are, some people will like them and some people won’t, so they might as well be themselves and know that their friendships are genuine. We all get to choose who we want to be friends with and who we want to be loyal to. Sometimes being friends with one group will mean that you can't be friends with another.
Jesus told the disciples something similar in John 15:18-19. He said that the world (meaning those who don’t belong to Christ) will hate them, because it hated Him first. The disciples should not be surprised that if they stood up for something that was contrary to what the people of the world believed, there would be hatred and persecution. Neither should we. If you profess to be a Christian, some people will hate you before they even get to know you. They may treat you badly or speak unfairly against you simply because you belong to Christ. In North America persecution is mild compared to what it is in some parts of the globe, but you still don’t have to look far to see it—people hurling insults, bullying, unfair stories in the press, acts of violence and vandalism.
We need to make a careful distinction though. Not all people who claim to be Christians behave in a way that resembles Christ. They judge and criticize and give their share of insults. Sometimes their behaviour is rude and obnoxious. Thus an unfavourable reaction might be more accurately labelled a result of provocation rather than persecution. This kind of behaviour is certainly not what Christ stood for. In II Corinthians 6:3, Paul instructs the people to be above reproach—to not do anything that can be criticized or cause offense. Throughout the Bible, and particularly in the passage just before this, Jesus commands His disciples to love. (John 15:12, John 15:17, John 15:10, Luke 6:27) This isn’t just a friendly suggestion; it’s a commandment. This is what it takes to be like Christ. Love even those who hate you.