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.

13 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?

  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.

    • 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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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

  8. Much like Jesus states that those who follow him will be his “friends” in John 15:14-17, Jesus also tells his disciples that they will gain the same enemies that Jesus does as a result of their friendship with him. Kostenberger states, “Christians should not be surprised that unbelievers in the world hate them. It follows a pattern seen in the world since Cain murdered Abel, and it is seen in the world’s reactions to Christ himself” (p.2056). It is obvious that there are enemies of Christ in the world today, and it is also evident that there have been enemies of God and Christ since the Old Testament, through the stories of the Israelites, to the Jews of the New Testament. History presents obvious evidence that there will always be enemies of Christ, and for those who follow Christ, they will gain his enemies. People, specifically the Jews, hating Christ fulfilled Old Testament scripture such as Psalm 35:19 and Isaiah 6:9-10 and this, as Jesus states in John 15, would continue for anyone who followed Christ from that moment forward. Long states, “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.” From what is presented by Jesus in John 15, to be one with the world and claim to be one with Christ, is impossible. A believer will not look like the world, or act like the world, therefore gaining enemies of the world, and friendship with Christ.

  9. A belief that has started to harm the Church is that in which Christians wont be persecuted because of the world’s shift towards inclusiveness; such as religion. With regards to Christianity, this couldn’t have been further from the truth. Persecution among Christians has been in existence throughout all time. Even when Jesus was speaking with disciples before His departure, Jesus warns His disciples that “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). Hence, Jesus spoke this warning because not only did the disciples need instruction on the world’s hatred, but because during Jesus’ earthly ministry He bore the brunt of the world’s hatred and persecution, but once Jesus departs from the disciples the world’s hatred will eventually be turned towards the disciples (Kostenberger, 151). As Christians, we must be cautious to not believe that persecution will not occur, especially because we live in a world that is inclusive; including religion. Whether Christians choose to accept the truth or not, committing our lives to Jesus Christ will require Christians to sacrifice all they have, even unto the point of death. Many Christians in other parts of the world suffer persecution today and yet even in our own country suffering for our faith is still not so overt as to be an issue of primary concern (Kostenberger, 153). This is no small matter that should be handled lightly, but rather an issue that should burn in the heart of every professing Christian as to whether or no one is willing to be persecuted even to the point of death for their faith in Jesus Christ alone.

  10. This post is very eye-opening and interesting. As you mentioned in your blog post “Jesus makes it clear to his disciple’s identification with Jesus is to accept hatred from the world, and that hatred will develop into a very real persecution.” Jesus’s disciples followed Him knowing that they would be prosecuted for it. Like you said Jesus never promised his disciples a comfortable life or that things wouldn’t get hard. I think that this is a very powerful message because in today’s society I feel like a question I get asked by non-believers is why bad things happen to good people if God is Good. I never really know the answer, I think we can all agree that that’s a pretty tough question. However, Jesus told His disciples that even if they follow Him life isn’t going to be perfect and that they won’t just have good health. Just because you are a follower of Jesus doesn’t mean life is going to be easy for you, Christians do sometimes deal with hate from others in the world. There is tons of sin in the world and a lot of bad and that’s one of the many reasons that sharing the gospel is so important because life here on earth is only temporary and so the hate you receive for being a follower of Jesus is temporary. However, you being able to reach out to a stranger and share some of the Gospel with them could potentially change their lives forever.

  11. By deciding to follow Jesus, we receive eternal salvation if we have faith in what he has done for us; we are promised eternal life free of any mourning, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:4). However, although we will one day inherit a life free of any suffering, Jesus does not promise this now throughout our time on earth. Rather, in John 15:18-25, Jesus tells us that the world hates his disciples. As a result of following Jesus, we will face opposition from and be enemies of the world. When we decide to follow Jesus, we must be willing to make sacrifices and to face persecution by those who hate him. Some people might think that choosing to follow Jesus will solve our problems and remove any suffering in our lives, but instead, it is the opposite. However, although we will face suffering and persecution from the world, Jesus provides us with great hope. In John 16:33 Jesus states, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world,” (NIV). This verse has always comforted me because it reminds me of how any suffering that I face is temporary compared to my eternity in heaven because Jesus has already overcome everything in the world. Throughout our time on earth, followers of Christ will be enemies of the world simply because of keeping His commands of loving Him and others. As Long discusses above, followers of Christ will not live a comfortable life, but instead inherit the enemies of Jesus by being a friend of him.

  12. As Christians, we know that we are meant to be different, and many people will hate us for being different. While I live in West Michigan, a place were a large amount of people have either been in the faith, or at least know it, it isn’t super common to come across a person who genuinely despises Christians. Part of this is because of where I live, and also because of how common basic bible knowledge is now. In Jesus’ day, what He was preaching was different from what everyone had grown up learning, so it was bound to have people try to oppose it. It would have been like if a Buddhist came to a Christian school, and told us we were wrong, and his way was the only way. What Jesus preaching was revolutionary, and many people weren’t open to it because of how different it was. Something that in a way didn’t help to prevent Jesus from having people dislike Him, was that He was claiming to be God, and it was just such a blasphemes thing to say, for anyone except Him, as we know He was Jesus. This just goes to show, that even the people who were able to hear directly from Christ, and tried to deny Him, that we will have people deny Him today, and especially go against His word. The gospel has often been described as offensive to the people who don’t follow it, because it calls them out of the way they live, and they don’t like that, so it remains easy to see how people can be enemies of the Word

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