“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. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’”
Just as the word “love” dominated yesterday’s passage, the prevailing word in today’s verses is “hate.” In the Greek, the word used is misĕō and it means to hate, denounce, and even detest enough to persecute. Imagine being hated that much for your faith in Christ.
Last week, I was in the car, of a ride-sharing service, Lyft. The driver’s name was Haab. As soon as I entered the car, a chain with a cross hanging from his rearview mirror caught my eye. Haab’s very heavy accent was a clear indicator that he was a recent refugee from the Middle East. I asked him how long he’d been in the United States. He responded with a smile, “I left Iraq five years ago, went to Turkey and have been in San Diego for two years.” Following my curiosity, I asked him the details of leaving Iraq. He said that he was raised as a Christ-follower and often Christians in Iraq will have a cross on their vehicles to take a stand for Christ. While Haab was still in Iraq, his brother-in-law had a cross on his rearview mirror. He was told to take it off. He refused to do so. The next day Haab’s brother-in-law got in his car, turned on the engine and the car exploded with him in it. Haab’s sister was now a widow, and her children fatherless for their faith. A few weeks later Haab was kidnapped and kept in the trunk of a car for three-days while his family scurried to gather a $100,000 ransom. At the exchange of money for his release, the kidnappers told him, “Next time, we will kill you and your family for being Christians.” The next day, Haab, his wife, and children packed up a few belongings and left for Turkey. After two years in Turkey, he eventually qualified for religious asylum in the United States. It took another year for him to relocate to San Diego where he now lives freely as a Christ-follower. This story broke my heart, to hear about other brothers and sisters in Christ, dying for their faith. It brings reality to verse 20, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” The treatment that Haab and his family experienced is the type of hatred Jesus is talking about in this passage.
If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.
Today, thank Jesus for your religious freedom. We may not always have it, so let’s appreciate today’s freedom to worship Jesus. The top 10 countries persecuting Christians today are: Afghanistan, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, Eritrea, Libya, Iraq, Yemen and Iran. Could you please take a few minutes to pray for those at risk of persecution even unto death, for their faith throughout the world?