If I were to ask you if you’d rather be hungry, hated, and poor OR if you’d prefer to be full, well thought of, and wealthy…which would you choose? A better question, biblically speaking, would rather be would you want to follow Jesus OR would you want to follow the way the world operates? When Jesus is speaking to all of his disciples, he’s not pointing to a muddy pit and saying, “Crawl through that!” No, he’s pointing to himself and saying, “Follow me.” And when you follow me, you will be crawling through a muddy pit.
There’s been a sneaky shift in the last few generations that says you can follow Jesus and be well-respected. It is true, we are NOT called as Christians to try to be disliked by the world. That’s other extreme, right? A religion that says, “We’re supposed to be hated, so I’m going to be offensive.” This is wrongheaded and evil. What we see in the life and ministry and words of Jesus is not a blatant slap in the face to the culture. We see a love and mercy…and as a result of living humbly, he is crucified.
I’m not sure where it creeped into our Christian culture, but we ought not pursue hostility…But we ought not be surprised if it comes. If you follow the humble and loving and merciful way of Jesus, you will be hated.
Because we don’t like Jesus’ mapping out of the path to follow him, we start to say, “Well, that’s what Jesus was saying to his disciples to get them ready for the suffering that would happen once he left. We must be careful not to pick and choose what pieces we will follow and what we explain away. Because if we do that, friends, then we also have to explain away his call to be blessed for the poor in spirit, to come to him who are heavy burdened to receive his rest, his invitation to receive living water. You see, if we’re honest with ourselves—we like his invitations but cringe at his commands.
If you follow Jesus, you will be hated. You won’t be hated because you’re nice. You won’t be hated because you work honestly and diligently. You won’t be hated because you volunteer at the non-profit. You will be hated because you follow Jesus. You will be hated because you talk about Jesus. You will be hated because you refuse to engage in gossip at the office because you say you follow Jesus. You will be hated because you tell people that you follow Jesus. Using our mouths, words that explain why we do or don’t do something, this is what will get people to hate you.
We have to be careful that our pursuit of comfort and to be respected trumps our devotion to Jesus. This was the essence of what Jesus says in Luke 6.26: “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their fathers were doing the same things to the false prophets.” The false prophets were smooth and petted people’s preferences. We have heard over the past few weeks the calls of Isaiah and Jeremiah during our Old Testament readings. They were reviled. They were hated. Because they spoke.
// My friends, can I push a little here. If you look at your life and your relationships, do you have any enemies because of your devotion to Jesus? May I humbly suggest that perhaps you haven’t been speaking a lot about him. Sure. You’re living a moral life. You’re trying to be faithful to what you read. You pray.
May I humbly suggest that we have become distracted with many things, and have forgotten the one thing that matters more than anything else? May I humbly push against our sensitivities and submit that perhaps we have become distracted with the latest Netflix series or Instagram post or obedience issue with our children. I believe Jesus is calling out to you and to me to take a hard look at our conversations and our relationships and our living in the world. This is not about being an extrovert or an introvert. Both sides of that equation talk to people—some more than others. This is about being a follower of Jesus.