In John 15:18-20, Jesus says, “if you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”
Who were the people that hated Jesus and how do I get them to hate me too?
That is the question that I’m pondering as I write to you about John 15.
After finishing their meal and the discussion afterwards from chapter 14, Jesus and the disciples left. They were all tired from posing on one side of the big Italian table for such a long time so Jesus said let’s go hang out in the garden of Gethsemane! (lol)
Jesus continued to explain things to his disciples. Just like all of Jesus’ followers, they couldn’t grasp that Jesus was teaching something completely different from every other man made religion. He explained the same points in dozens of ways, and we still all ask, “so what are the rules? Where is the check-list? Who can we exclude so we fill super important and holy?”
So, Jesus explained that he is like a vine and God the Father is like a gardener. Jesus’ followers are like branches if we remain in him like a branch attached to a vine, then we will grow and produce fruit and the Father will prune away the things that are holding us back.
Throughout the passage, Jesus says over and over “remain in me”. He promises that if we remain in him, we will be productive and whatever we ask, it will be done for us!
Jesus continued to explain by saying, “2000 years from now, a bunch of middle-class Americans are going to be sitting around in churches looking up the original Greek word for fruit and eating fruit salad and pondering what all this means. They need to focus on how I have loved all my followers just as the Father has loved me. They should remain in that love and keep my commands.” (CFT)*
It’s really a pretty simple teaching but it changes everything. We are supposed to dwell in Jesus’ love for us. Live in it. Remain in it. Focus on it. Obsess on it. Then obey his commands and ask him for help and he will give it to us.
It always strikes me as a little humorous how quickly we twist things and how religious sounding explanations can ease our convicted consciences. Leaders will often offer challenges and new programs that compel us to change and get on board with wherever exciting new thing their program, church, or ministry, is doing.
However, we seldom stop in the middle of all our busyness and ask the questions: Am I being “fruitful”? Am I remaining in Jesus’ love?
If the answer to the first question is no, the answer to the second one is no also.
Thankfully the opposite is true too! That’s just the way it is. Live daily in his love and he will work in you. Follow a bunch of religious rules, be morally superior to everyone around you…not so much…
If you are like me, you have to constantly resist getting caught in THE TRAP. THE TRAP lures you in with insanely trying to follow enough rules to be in God’s favor. Then you start becoming a judgmental old bitty that people don’t want to be around. (Which would not be how to be hated like Jesus was.)
It’s a super easy trap to fall into:
1.You struggle with something. For me, I had a few wild years in high school and college that I’d like to pretend didn’t happen.
2.You bring it to God and he forgives you.
3. You realize how bad what you did was and freak out. You suddenly see how far you are from God. You realize you sinned. You want to be different. You know God is awesome so you start being religious. I know tons of people who while in this stage went and insulted all of their old friends. They just hung out together a week ago but suddenly all of their old friends are all horrible sinners and the freakout person is super judgmental.
4.You relate to God wrong. You try to follow all the rules, you pray, you read the Bible and you look for nuggets of truth to claim. Then you start trying to do all of these amazing things for God. Or you start claiming truths to give you power over problems. Or you think if you just follow all the rules he will bless you. But you forget to remain in his love. You forget that he wants to walk through life with you. You keep doing all these great religious things and you, I forget.
I forget that my purpose begins with letting God love me. It comes from a place of knowing him and walking with him. All the stuff I try to do matters because I’m doing it with him.
And (confession time) this has been my struggle since I moved to Rhode Island. Pre-RI, I worked really hard to get to a place where I could “do” church really well. I found my niche. I was working with ESL students and at-risk youth. People knew me. I had my thing that I could point to and say, “that’s some mighty fine fruit right thar.”
But in Rhode Island, every day English speakers couldn’t understand me so no one wanted me to teach their language learners. My first teaching job here, my boss made fun of my accent constantly, so my passion for teaching people to speak English kind of died. Along with it, my feeling that I was being productive…
As I read this passage today, it felt really freeing. I absolutely still want to serve and follow my passions, but my focus needs to be on “abiding” in Jesus’ love for me and living out his commands in whatever situation I find myself in and he promises that he will give me what I need and make me productive.
And then there is that little part about how the kind of people that hated Jesus are going to hate us too. That’s OK, they were jerks anyway! (I’m JOKING!)
Ironically, as I focus on how loved I am by God, I’m completely free to be hated and it’s OK (until I forget to focus). I believe he will continue to empower me to grow and change and be even more productive.
I’m ok with being hated by some people if it means modern versions of the most hopeless in society get to know how loved they are by GOD.
I’m OK with being hated for not being caught in stage three or four of the “trap” (and frustrating the peejeebers out of the people who seem to like living there!)
I want to be obnoxious in how much I love people not how much I judge them. I want people to remember me as that crazy lady that didn’t get offended by anyone and didn’t care who she hung out with. I want to be annoying because I’m not impressed with the “right” things. I want people to hate me because I’m more excited about people having hope than I am about how much stuff we have. I want to confront things that need to be confronted and love scandalously.
I want to be hated for stuff that is worth being hated for…
*The Cindy Felkel translation. It is based on 46 years of Bible teaching from my awesome Christian parents, NIV study Bible, Zodhiates complete Greek study, and a lot of my own attitudes and biases from 46 years of being in church! I definitely wouldn’t use this translation as my only source of Bible knowledge. It has virtues but it’s EXTREMELY flawed!!!
I am a really strange mix of a hippie, Calypso, Southern Belle, Madea- wannabe, Christian with the attitude of a Rhode Islander! I’m fascinated with people’s stories, I love to laugh at life with people and I’m genuinely trying to follow Jesus’ teachings. Strangely, my search for truth often has me at odds with American Christians who believe themselves to be the guardians of this truth. I was kicked out of Sunday School as a child for asking too many questions. I learned to repress them but my questions never went away. Thankfully as an adult, I feel completely free to pursue answers. Turns out, God is pretty big and not nearly as upset with my questions as his followers tend to be!