5 Ways Christians Should Respond When the World Hates Them
As we move further into the 21st century, it seems as if the tolerance for the things of God and things relating to Jesus are waning. What people tolerated before just does not happen anymore. The decision to stand for Biblical truth is now met with opposition from many levels, and may lead to the world hating you.
Knowing this, how should you as a Christian respond? I want you to consider five ways to respond when the world hates you.
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1. Don’t Be Surprised
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 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” (John 15:18-19).
If you carry Jesus’ message and you attempt to emulate Jesus, then expect to receive the same treatment Jesus did. People are quick to reject Jesus and hate him because he represents the one thing they cannot escape – he is the truth. To deal with Jesus, you must confront what he said about himself and what he says about you. Most people in the world don’t want to do that, so they would rather hate Jesus and keep him at a distance. The further away they keep Jesus, the less they are required to address who they really are.
When you come around preaching Jesus, not just with words but actions, you remind people of who they are and, since they don’t want to deal with that, they may hate you. Honestly, it is not you they hate, but Jesus in you. If you stand for Jesus, don't be surprised if the world rejects you. They very well might crucify you.
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2. Let the Message Be the Offense, Not You
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6).
If we are going to be honest and transparent, Christians have given the world a lot of ammunition to work with to hate us, and it is all connected to our behavior. One area that has affected Christians, at least in America, is hypocrisy. We all have moments where we don’t live up to the ideals of our faith, but that is a far cry from the flagrant, almost acceptable hypocrisy that is present in the lives of too many Christians.
One of the biggest areas we have shown this is with political hypocrisy. Candidates we like, we justify. Candidates we don’t like, we crucify. It’s like we present to the world a selective form of morality which is foreign to the Jesus of the Bible.
Besides that, we don’t bring words of healing into situations; we bring words of destruction. So much for graceful conversation that is seasoned with salt. One benefit of salt in the first century is they used it as a healing agent. If our words are to be seasoned with salt, this means our words, whether spoken or written, should be full of grace and said with the intention to bring healing. Instead, we have spoken words that tear down, and instead of healing wounds we rip them open.
The message of the gospel, even if you tell it in love, can be and will be offensive to some. That is okay. Let the message be the offense. You don’t need to be offensive in the manner you deliver it or the way you represent it.
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3. Understand Their Situation
“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
One thing we must remember is why the world hates you. They are blind to the truth of who Jesus is. If you remember before Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was a ruthless agent against the church. He had people imprisoned and even put to death because of their belief in Jesus. He did this because he was blind. However, when his eyes were opened to the truth, everything changed for Paul.
Let’s remember people outside of Christ are blind and they cannot see. This should automatically cause compassion to well up in our hearts as we recognize their blindness and see their broken position.
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4. Respond to Hate with Love
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’” (Matthew 5:43-44).
How do you respond when the world hates you? You love them back. If we are going to follow Jesus’ example, just consider how he dealt with those who were very clear and honest about how much they hated him. They hated him so much they wanted him dead and they worked hard to make it happen. Jesus could have easily wiped them all out with one word, but instead of wiping them out, he wept over them. Why would Jesus weep over the ones who hated him? Because he recognized their position.
However, there is something else that is true as well. Jesus loved them and he knew he was their only hope for salvation. If all he ever did was bring judgment, how could he redeem those who were blind and lost?
I know it's difficult to deal with those who may stand in opposition to you. However, you need to stand anyway. Remember, you are not just standing to uphold your position. You are standing because you represent the hope they need to change their life. When you see people for who they are, it becomes a lot easier to love them, regardless of how they feel about you.
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5. Pray for Them, Not against Them
The last thing we need to do is pray for them. Notice Jesus said to pray for them and not pray against them. I hope you see how contrary this is to the way of the world today.
In Acts 4, Peter and John were brought before the rulers, the elders, and the teachers of the law. This new message they were preaching disturbed them and they commanded them to stop, which Peter and John refused to do. When they returned to the other believers and told them what happened, I want you to pay close attention to how they responded. They got together and prayed. Consider the substance of their prayer. Here is part of it.
“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:29-30).
They addressed the threat in prayer, but they didn’t ask God to strike their opposition down or to remove them. The believers asked God to give them more boldness and to display more of his power. Why was this necessary? Because the more they shared the gospel and the more God’s power was on display, the more people they would draw to encounter Jesus.
It can become so easy to get caught up fighting natural enemies that you forget the actual mission. The mission is about the gospel and making disciples. So when the world hates you, don’t pray hate over them, but consider their situation and pray their eyes would become open and that you could speak with more boldness. This may not change them, but it will change you and the way you engage with those who may hate you because of Christ.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.