If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me first. If you were of the world, it would love you as its own. Instead, the world hates you, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. Remember the word that I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you as well (John 15:18-20).
The word “world” here obviously does not refer to the planet Earth itself, but to the collective attitudes, philosophies, economies, priorities, political powers, and cultural stances that are arrayed against God and His teachings. It is an accumulation of demonic influences and sinful human connivances, tendencies, and preferences. Because this “world” involves people, human and demonic, it is capable of hate.
The world hates us to the degree that we are true Christians.
Sadly, many Christians work hard to ensure that the world does not hate them. We do this most often by compromising the faith and hiding whatever practice of the faith we do have. It is also due to a love and preference for the world. While this is often done out of weakness, it is a deeply sinful drive. Scripture warns,
Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever chooses to be a friend of the world renders himself an enemy of God (James 4:4).
These are strong words to be sure, but deep sinful drives require strong medicine.
If we are on a path to becoming truer Christians, we will encounter increasing resistance from the world and from worldly people who sense that we are not quite on board with the current culturally-blessed belief system. Somehow, they sense an independence and freedom in us that they rightly assess will erode their power.
Let’s consider a few related though distinct versions of the world’s hatred of true Christians.
1. The world hates us because we cannot be easily exploited by agreeing to part with our money.
Scripture says this of the fear of death:
Therefore, since the children have flesh and blood, Christ too shared in their humanity, so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Most marketing schemes exploit the fear of diminishment, which is a version of the fear of death. Find out what a person fears and you can control him. Most people are desperately afraid of rejection, of being diminished in the sight of their fellow human beings.
Many are ensnared by this and are easy targets for exploitation. This fear of diminishment is brought out by delivering the message that you are not measuring up in some way. Here are some examples:
- You’re not attractive enough.
- You’re not slim enough.
- You don’t have the right style or color of hair.
- You don’t drive the right sort of car.
- You don’t have a modern enough cell phone,
- You don’t live in the right kind of house in the right kind of neighborhood.
- You’re not smart enough.
- You’re not cool.
- Your neighbors are laughing at you behind your back because they are richer, more glamorous, and happier than you are.
- You’re missing out on life because of all your shortcomings.
“Never fear,” the message goes, “$19.95 (plus shipping and handling) will get you our product and make you less pathetic, more esteemed, and less diminished in the eyes of your neighbors.”
When a person is less obsessed with human approval and more focused on divine approval, when he has the “fear of the Lord” rather than the fear of men, the worldly realize that he is less easily exploited. A true Christian is more satisfied with God’s love and therefore less concerned with the world’s esteem and approval. The world senses this and develops a kind of disdain and hatred for the true Christian and for Christianity itself because it cannot so easily exploit the fear of diminishment.
2. The world hates us because we cannot be easily exploited for worldly power or political gain.
There is power in ideas. Sow a thought, reap a deed; sow a deed, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny. Thoughts and ideas are powerful things. This insight is at the heart of the proclamation of the Gospel. No longer be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:2). The Church and the world are engaged in a battle of ideas and the battle for the mind.
One of the tactics of the world is to market ideas so as to gain power and influence. This is a worldly sense that if certain ideas and ideologies can be implanted in people, they can then become a base for marketing, politics, and worldly power.
Identity politics, tribalism, race, and highly specific grievances increasingly form a basis for political and worldly power; ideas become ideology.
Reason and shared human values are less the basis for the appeal; fear and competition through organized power become more common. In an increasingly crowded marketplace of divergent ideas, loyalty and an “us vs. them” mentality are insisted upon. Intimidation, both subtle and obvious, is the daily fare.
The world rightly assesses that a true Christian is less easily intimidated. As our faith grows, our ideas become more rooted in perennial truths rather than in the ephemeral views of today. We see things by the light of the Gospel and more quickly understand the errors of much of modern thinking. As we grow in our faith we trust God more and come to delight in the truth He proclaims, experiencing greater liberation. Rooted in this way in clear and lasting truth, we are less easily deceived, controlled, or intimidated. The world and the prince of this world are instinctively aware of this and thus hate us and the faith in which we strive to grow.
3. The world hates us because our call to moderation threatens their wild excesses.
This is basically the summation of the first two points. The Christian faith calls us to moderation and sobriety. We are taught that happiness is not rooted in the multiplicity of things or pleasures, but in the moderate enjoyment of lawful pleasures. This limits the ability of marketers to sell us more and more. It also limits the inroads of political and worldly philosophies that often traffic in inciting dissatisfaction that others have more that we do. The world rightly perceives that a true Christian is less easily provoked to excessive consumption and less easily enlisted in causes rooted merely in possessions or power.
We are an “ugly” reminder to the world that it has lost its way.
In the Book of Wisdom this form of hatred is described in this way:
Let us lie in wait for the righteous one, because he is annoying to us; he opposes our actions, Reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD. To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us, because his life is not like that of others, and different are his ways. He judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He calls blest the destiny of the righteous and boasts that God is his Father. Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him in the end…. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.” These were their thoughts, but they erred; for their wickedness blinded them. And they did not know the hidden counsels of God; neither did they count on a recompense for holiness nor discern the innocent souls’ reward (Wisdom 2:12-24).
Deep down, the worldly know that what the Church teaches is right. She touches something deep in the consciences of even the most jaded of modern thinkers. Rationalizing away, resisting, and ignoring the still, small voice of God echoing in their hearts is hard work. Even a small poke from the Church through Scripture or her teaching incites loud cries of pain and anger because they know the Church is right.
Perhaps, too, there is vague awareness that the Church is still going to be here preaching the gospel long after this current experiment of a godless and truth-less “culture” has run its course. Indeed, in the age of the Church empires have come and gone, nations have risen and fallen, heresies have been presented and resisted. Yet here we are still, preaching the gospel.
There is something mysterious about the particular hatred that the world reserves for Jesus and His Church.
In the Western world most religions are tolerated, even if largely ignored. Buddhism, Hinduism, and other eastern religions receive a nod from the cultural elites. New Age “spiritual but not religious,” “god-within” movements are often thought trendy and touted as substitutes for biblical religions. Strangely, despite numerous terrorist attacks and an ideology almost diametrically opposed to Western liberalism, the Muslim faith gets a pass.
Don’t even mention Christianity, let alone Catholicism, to most of them. The reaction is often “over-the-top.” It is not enough for them to dismiss us as irrelevant; they actively oppose us with legal efforts to keep our voice out of the public square. Prayer must go. Christmas must be called “the Holidays.” Mangers are forbidden. Even the colors green and red have been banished from some schools during this time. Easter break is “spring break” and Good Friday is just another teacher in-service day. Ramadan and Rosh Hashana are still mentioned by name. One can express almost any motivation for a view—except a religious one (especially a Christian or Catholic one). One can be a proud supporter of abortion and Planned Parenthood and a proud supporter of same-sex “marriage” and other LGBTQ causes, but one cannot oppose these for sincerely held religious reasons without being labeled a dangerous zealot trying to impose your views on others.
The depth of the fear, anger, and hatred is mysterious. If we are so “irrelevant,” why is it necessary to oppose us so fiercely? Do we really have an ability to impose our views? Why are we said to be “imposing” our views when we voice them while others are free to hold and express their views without backlash?
The anger, fear, and hatred is both obsessive and excessive. It is far beyond rational opposition.
Ultimately the mystery is not so deep that it defies explanation. There is evidence in the behavior of cultural elites and worldly leaders that Jesus and Christianity (especially the Catholic part of it) are public enemy number one.
Satan certainly has a raging fear of Jesus. As the “prince of this world,” he spreads his fear to the world. Thus, despite our many compromises with modernity, Catholicism remains the staunchest opponent to the views of most cultural elites. Our doctrines are stubborn things, even for some inside the Church who would like to change them. The Rock of Peter, whatever the human limitations of the individual popes in history, has a great deal of inertia by the Lord’s own design and grace. By God’s own promise, the gates of Hell (an image of power) slam against the Rock but cannot prevail.
The hatred of the Catholic Church is not really mysterious after all. It is a hatred far more cosmic and sweeping than merely that of those who live today. The special hatred for Christ and His Church are the great evidence that He is true Savior and Lord. Satan cannot keep a “poker face” in the presence of Christ and His Bride, the Church. He nervously rages, and all his worldly structures, philosophies, and those he inspires rage with him.
Be sober and yet at the same time amazed at the evidence of the true Church and Faith.
And the dragon was enraged at the woman and went to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. (Revelation 12:17)