John 15.15 – 16.4
15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
18 “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. 20 Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. 21 They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me. 22 They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Anyone who hates me also hates my Father. 24 If I hadn’t done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be guilty. But as it is, they have seen everything I did, yet they still hate me and my Father. 25 This fulfills what is written in their Scriptures: ‘They hated me without cause.’
26 “But I will send you the Advocate — the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. 27 And you must also testify about me because you have been with me from the beginning of my ministry. 16.1 I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith. 2 For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God. 3 This is because they have never known the Father or me. 4 Yes, I’m telling you these things now, so that when they happen, you will remember my warning. I didn’t tell you earlier because I was going to be with you for a while longer.”
There are only two things I want to point out today. First, Jesus uses stark language here: love and hate. Not much room for nuance. Jesus encourages his followers. We have not chosen him, he has chosen us. Chosen us to produce fruit – fruit that is produced when we love each other and invite others into our community of love. But our loving community will also draw the ire of some who will not hesitate to show their hatred for Jesus and for us. Throughout the four Gospels, we have seen people respond positively to Jesus and we have seen people respond negatively. Some receive and reciprocate his love. Others reject his love and return it with hate. We should expect to receive some of both responses if we are living out his command to love each other.
But I suspect that you are familiar with this, that you’ve heard this sort of thing before. For as long as I can remember, Christians (the ones I’ve been around in the USA at least) have busied themselves with creating and maintaining a subculture, the purpose and maintenance of which is an ongoing culture war. It might seem that what Jesus says here plays right into the Christian culture war narrative. It certainly gets used that way by the self-chosen culture warriors. But we can only read this passage as supporting the culture war approach if we completely ignore everything we’ve read all year.
Think about it, Jesus says the people who accepted him will accept us and the people who rejected him will reject us. Who accepted Jesus? Traitors, thieves, prostitutes, homeless, diseased, degenerate, drunk, possessed, destitute, powerless, social deviants. Who rejected Jesus? People with a stake in protecting the dominant culture, those with an interest in maintaining the status quo, the hyper-religious, the privileged, the socially and economically favored, those in power. Now look at those two lists and tell me, which group would today’s Christian culture warriors belong in?
What happens when the love and hate are backwards? When the people who should love us hate us and the people who should hate us love us? It is clear from this passage that followers of Jesus should be loved by some and hated by others. It is equally clear from all we’ve read this year that we have this reversed. The people Jesus said would accept us don’t want anything to do with us because they haven’t seen love from us. The people Jesus said would hate us have become our self-appointed spokespeople and have hijacked our faith for a culture war Jesus never commissioned.
That’s what this passage is about. It is a virtue both to be loved and hated by the proper people. Jesus excelled at this. His followers should do the same.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.