John 15:18-25 – Enemies of the World

The one who is a friend of Jesus will be the target of the enemies of Jesus (15:18-25). By being a friend of Jesus, the disciples also inherit his enemies! This too is a function of a friend in the ancient world, to be a friend of one person was to also gain enemies.

Perhaps an analogy can be drawn to modern politics, where taking a particular political position can align you with a friendly party, but make you the target of another. It is possible that someone might align themselves with a particular candidate and create a tension with old friends who find that candidate offensive. (Imagine Ted Nugent coming out in support of Ted Kennedy. That probably would not end well for either of them!)

Jesus makes it clear to his disciples identification with Jesus is to accept hatred from the world, and that hatred will develop into a very real persecution. This description of persecution returns to the metaphor at the beginning of the chapter. The friends of Jesus will be attacked by the world, but this is to be accepted as “pruning” from God.

The disciples of Jesus can be expected to face persecution because of their association with Jesus. In fact, it is the claim that Jesus, and only Jesus, is the Lord which opens the disciples up to persecution.

For a Jewish audience, to call someone Lord seems to violate the foundational principles of the Hebrew Bible as found in the shema. If the Lord is One, and Jesus is Lord, then he must be the One God. While that has been the claim of John’s gospel all along, that is a shocking statement for the Jewish world to accept. We know from the book of Acts that there was a suppression of the apostolic claim that Jesus is Lord.

For a Roman audience, to call someone Lord seems to violate the foundational principles of the Roman empire. Domitian, the emperor who ruled when John wrote his gospel, identified himself as Lord and God, Nero called himself as the Savior of the World, and even Augustus was described as the divine son who brought peace to the world. Since Christians were making these same claims about Jesus, they were in danger of persecution from Rome for impiety and treason.

Jesus does not promise his disciples a comfortable life, free from trouble.  He does not promise them good health, a fat bank account and a mega-church in Texas.  He promises them that if they are really his friends, and if they are bearing witness to his words, and if they are really keeping his commandment to love one another, the world will hate them.

8 thoughts on “John 15:18-25 – Enemies of the World

  1. Years ago, I chose “discipleship” with Christ, over the academy and even obedience to the visible church, though I really love aspects of both! But, I must always serve both Christ and conscience first! This is one of the major reasons I could never go back to Rome, even if I could agree with them theologically, fully. I am a convinced “Protestant”, first, and then a “Catholic” second…though of course the historical order is “catholic”, then “protestant” and “reformed”. And now that I am semi-retired, I am at peace.. I chose the better path! Of course it did not further me personally, but it is always, “Not I, but Christ”! But, even so.. I have so little served HIM!

    Choose wisely younger brethren! (Phil. 3: 18-19…noting also Phil. 1: 29-30) The Christian life and service therein is always a “conflict”! If you are not seeing and experiencing something of this? Then perhaps you are missing Christ?

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  2. This leaves me to think about how much we as western Christians are really being “hated” by the world. How offten and how much do we actually look like the world but claim Christ, just to avoid the persecution and hate that comes from being a freind of Jesus. If we just try and make Jesus look attractive to the world, if we just try and hide our friendship with Jesus behind culturaly relevant trends and lifestyles maybe we won’t be hated so much by the world That seems to be the trend. We are all guily of it. It does not mean we can take part in the world and live in the world and even have similar interests that the world has, but our freindship with jesus should be first, and it should be the first thing that defines us and the first thing that directs our way of living.

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    • This is a really good post that speaks truth. I think that we have found a way to blend in with society and keep our relationship with Jesus on a personal level. Matthew 5:16 says that we need to let our light shine bright for others to see. If we choose to be close friends with those who are of the world, do they even know that we are not of the world, or is that something we only want our Christian friends to know. Being a light of Jesus should be the first thing noticed when associating with anyone. John 15:19 makes me think that we should secretly feel good when the world hates us and we are being persecuted, as we must be shining bright enough for people to see. This is where the point in the below response is helpful, and that we need to be surrounded by a good group of friends, not to avoid the troubles of the world, but to strengthen us when times are tough. I also think that these hardships that we will face from the hatred of the world are supposed to make us stronger. We are supposed to be continually learning, and if we come to a time where we do not have an answer for someone, it is an opportunity to find the answer for the next time and grow from the experience. We are meant to run into trouble, but we also serve a God who can help us out of anything.

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  3. When going through life, one must be careful because people can make up assumptions about you just based off association. It does not seem fair, but that is how the world is. That is why it is important, especially for those in school, to know who your friends are. By hanging out with the cool kids, people will associate you with that group. If you hang out with punk kids, people will think you are a punk. As stated in scripture, “do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14, NIV). You do not want to be around people who give you a negative influence, but God tells us to love everyone though, so how do we love others, but not also be associated? My answer is that you cannot. No matter what you do, somebody doesn’t like it. For anyone who hates another person, they cannot love. As Kostenberger puts it, “thus it is impossible for anyone to claim he loves while hating Jesus or his followers,” (Kostenberger, 151). You cannot claim to have love if you hate. How can you have room for love if your heart is full of hate? You cannot. So, as believers, you do not want to be associated with unbelievers, but as followers of Christ, you must learn to have hearts of love and not hold hatred in your heart because then you do not hear the words of God.

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  4. A key verse that I take away from the passage is verse 20 when Jesus says that, “A servant is not greater than his master”. We are choosing to serve Christ, and with that we are choosing to accept the same punishment and rejection. God chose us out of the rest of the world to go on a different path (verse 19), and while the path leads to the Kingdom, it is a path of hardships. I do not think that this passage is trying to say that we cannot associate with those who are of the world, or think that we are doing something if they do not hate us. Jesus still taught us to love all, and even if we are feeling hatred from people, we are to still show them love. I’ve heard some people say that you cannot be following Jesus and have friends of the world, and I do not believe this to be true. Mark 2:16-17 tells of when Jesus sat with tax collectors and sinners, and had a goal of helping them as they needed saving. If we do not put ourselves in the paths of those who are lost, then we are being selfish with the gift that we were given by Jesus. We cannot forget the second part of verse 20, “If they obeyed my teachings, they will obey yours as well”. Jesus doesn’t want us to run from the world out of fear of the hate we will experience, He wants us to use it for his glory, and to help those who are lost.

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  5. A couple of verses that I read today that this post made me think of is John 12:44-45: “And Jesus cried out and said, ‘Whoever believes me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.” This verse reads to me as Jesus, once again, laying it all out like: “If you’re committed, REALLY, committed, you will join in worshipping me and proclaiming me as God, no matter the risks because that is who I am!” What a giant commitment that is! I think in hindsight, it’s easy for us to says, “well, of course, we would worship Jesus as Lord – no matter the cost!” but, I wonder if many of us actually would risk making deadly enemies of the state in a perspective of having not witnessed the death and resurrection yet. The more I think about this, the more and more respect I have for the early disciples and followers of Christ.

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  6. This segment of verses has always stood out to me. There have been a lot of times in my life where I have felt that everyone hated me because of my Christian beliefs and morals. These verses have been on my heart for years every times I come across someone who has a hatred of me because of Jesus. I cannot say that I have undergone persecution, but at the same time I find these verses to be reassuring and helpful in these times. We are not promised that our lives will be fixed or easy, in fact we are told it will be hard. That there will be trials. However, this goes back to the concept that was just talked about in John 15- pruning. God is refining us, but knowing full well that if we remain in him we will not crumble under the pressure. If we really want to call ourselves friends or followers of Jesus, then we must walk in His footsteps, and if we are doing that, then people will respond to us the same way that they did to Him. If we are sacrificial, loving others above ourselves, and seeking God’s Kingdom then the forces of evil will be at work against us and show up as hatred. This hatred comes from a hatred and loathing of the One whose footsteps we are walking in; but we cannot lose hope because Jesus has warned us that these times would come and that He would not leave us when they did.

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  7. This makes me think about the so-called health and wealth Gospel. We cannot preach the gospel and not be honest with people. Jesus does not promise that when we give our lives to him that we will have perfect lives and everything will be fine. That is simply not true, we still live in a broken world where bad things happen because of sin and free will. All that being said do we really face real persecution in the western world today? Maybe on a very small scale but we are not facing the type of persecution where we could die for our faith. I know I have often wondered why some Christians appear to have a better life than I do. Whether it is that they have nicer stuff than me or their loved ones are still with them I often wonder why they seem to have more blessings than me. I think the honest conclusion that I came to is that it is God and God alone. We just have to seek God and honor him with all that we have and let him work everything else. Life as a follower of Jesus Christ promises to be anything but easy but once you know the truth of the Gospel why would you live for anyone but God

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