By Arie Reath
“If you belonged to the world, it would love you 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.” (John 15:19)
These words spoken by Jesus really challenge me. For starters, His choice of the word “hate” seems harsh. He says that since He has chosen us out of the world, the world will hate us. To be honest, at first I wasn’t sure how to feel about that. As humans, we are social creatures. There is a natural instinct to want to be accepted and understood by our peers. How can I be at peace with the world hating me? What if I’m challenged to speak up, when the easier route would be to stay silent?
What does it even mean to be not of this world? We have no choice but to live, interact and engage with the environment around us; isn’t being of the world inevitable? But if we take a big-picture view of Jesus’ teachings throughout his life, we can see that he offers us another way. He set the example of what it means to not belong to this world and to belong to Heaven instead.
He offers us freedom from the lowly things of the earth, to leave everything behind and to follow Him [Luke 5:11], the One who is constantly calling us back to Himself no matter how far we’ve strayed.
As true and intentional disciples, our confidence does not come from the car we drive, the clothes we wear, the house we live in or other worldly things. Our unshakeable peace and fullest of joys come from what is unseen – from the One in Whom we have made our Home. This is radically different from what our modern culture preaches— that our joy is found in material possessions and conforming to fit in. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. If we are teased, excluded, jeered at, lied about, or made to feel like an outsider, are we brave enough to continue on the path set before us by Jesus Himself?
It isn’t easy to be yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to form you like everybody else. The good news is that we can be encouraged by the ones who have gone before us.
No one was more of an outsider than our Lord Jesus Christ. Many times, even his own friends didn’t understand the reasons for his actions. Sometimes I think that if I was alive during Jesus’s life, I would know him better. But 2000 years later, I have the advantage of knowing how the story ends and connecting the dots; his actions make sense to me. But to his Apostles, most of the story was still a mystery, and so they followed by faith, being ridiculed as social outcasts for it.
I find it comforting that none of the Apostles, despite having Jesus in their midst, felt at home in the world. I’m sure many of the saints felt the same. My prayer for you, and for me, is that when the going gets tough, we don’t just give up in order to be liked by other people or to avoid confrontation.
My prayer is that, when all we want is relief from that deep-rooted ache that is longing for home—our Heavenly Home—that we are strong and let our hearts take courage, all we who wait for the Lord [Psalm 31:24].