“I am the vine, you are the branches,” Jesus says to us in John 15. His life is our life. What is true of him is true of us. As Jesus goes on in John 15, this also means that his struggle is our struggle. The places he fits in are the places we fit in. And the places he doesn’t fit are the places we don’t fit. Discipleship requires dissonance, like a symphony orchestra playing in perfect accord except for a rogue musician here and there playing the wrong song in the wrong key. The world around us is playing a song, and Jesus will always be out of tune. So we will be, too.
“If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19) If you get nothing but praise and admiration all the time, says Jesus, you’re doing it wrong. I have earned a lot of hatred from this world, he says, and I expect you to earn your fair amount of hatred as well. Now, it’s certainly possible that we earn the world’s hatred for the wrong reasons. The arrogance to judge and malign anyone and everyone we disagree with. The arrogance to condemn those whose morality doesn’t align with ours. The hypocrisy to condemn those who commit the same sins we do but just don’t hide it as well. When the Church becomes just one more club arrogantly elevating ourselves over everyone else as morally superior, we’ve earned a lot of hatred for the wrong reasons.
The world should hate the church because we forgive the people no one else wants to forgive, because we welcome the people everyone else wants to exclude, because we choose silence over endless noise, because we choose silence over panic, because we choose peace instead of giving into the world’s addiction to conflict, because we’re willing to speak a humble word of correction to a world addicted to desire and indulgence and conflict, because we will be faithful to a difficult truth instead of hiding in an easy lie, because the pursuit of more and more money means, frankly, nothing to us, because we love generously the people that everyone else wants to hate.
This how Jesus earns the world’s hatred. These are the things that get Jesus killed. His generous love shines a light on our hatred that we want to pretend is justified. His eagerness to forgive shines a light on our own reluctance to forgive, which is to shine a light on our blindness to our own sin and need to be forgiven. His silence and peace shine a light on our addiction to noise and panic and conflict. The world hates someone who exposes this much of its brokenness. And he doesn’t expose it with a few epic, moral grandstanding sermons; he exposes it simply by being himself day in and day out – daily conversations and interactions, daily meals had with “sinners and tax collectors.” That’s how we will earn the world’s hatred too. Let’s never stop giving the world reasons to hate us.