In stark and obviously intentional contrast to the last section on love Jesus goes on to speak about hate. While love is to be the ruling principle of the followers-of-Jesus, hate is unfortunately a major part of the world’s reaction to those people. Open and direct hostility will be the experience of at least some of my hearers and readers. For many more the hostility will be much less obvious but nearly as potent. I refer to the sort of hidden hostility that is part of much modern Western culture which prides itself on being ‘liberal’ and secular and therefore puts all religions into one category, all regarded as backward and naive. It leads to much of the present tensions about refugees and immigration in Europe. Hidden behind many of the statements against, or for, the influx are attitudes to Islam and the centuries long Christian background of many of the European countries - but no one dares say so!
Why is there so much antagonism, or to use the shorter more direct word that Jesus used, ‘hate’, against Christian faith and people. Much of the reason is found in the next chapter at 16: 8 – 11, where we read, “When he [,the Holy Spirit,] comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.” Jesus blames the attitudes onto reactions to the actions of the Holy Spirit but, of course, in practical terms those actions are seen as coming from those who present the work of the Spirit to the outside world. We should be showing the world that it is wrong about sin because we are living, if not perfectly pure, lives at least some that are visibly and obviously better than those around us. We may not display perfect righteousness but at the very least we are visibly much closer to acceptance by the Lord than others. Our presence and living practices hold before all others the fact that there is more than one way of living and therefore there is the strong possibility of a judgement still to come. The ordinary non-Christian does not like being shown up in those ways.
We tend to see the situation from inside our own cocoons and miss the implications for those outside. Is it any wonder that we are not always all that popular?
Jesus traces the problem back to its source in 15: 16. It is all his fault! We have probably been encouraged from our beginning on the Christian Way to think that we took all the decisions. ‘Make your decision for Christ’ we were challenged, or ‘follow Jesus’, or ‘your parents are Christian so of course so are you.’. It all sounded as though it was up to us to become a Christian. But Jesus goes back to the true reality of what happened when we started to follow him: HE CHOSE US. He said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit —fruit that will last” (15: 16). Not only that, he began to call us his friends, “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (15: 14, 15). He gave us this status. We are totally secure in him. We just have to be careful about how we present that fact to other people. If we brag about it we shall only intensify the hostility we encounter. On the other hand if we hide it too successfully we shall evade the hostility but deny the truth of who we are. It is a difficult balancing act. May all you, my hearers and readers all round the world, be good and faithful witnesses in your many and varied situations. Let us pray for each other in this.<