I was reading through Luke tonight and I came across this verse:
You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. — 21.17
The context is important, of course. Luke 21 contains some of the final teachings of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel before his betrayal and subsequent death. He foretells the destruction of the Temple with the cryptic “wars and tumults” language, which opens the discussion to a whole host of troubling images: nation warring against nation, earthquakes and famine wreaking havoc on humanity, believers persecuted at the hands of the empire. “This will be your opportunity to bear witness,” he says (21.13). The chapter is filled with more vivid end-times imagery: Jerusalem trampled underfoot, the Son of Man returning on the clouds, the importance of watchfulness amid all the waiting. But Jesus is very clear: You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.
They refer to these as “hard sayings”, statements that challenge — and in some cases, dissuade — those who attempt to follow Jesus. It’s not exactly the most tactical PR move to tell the most ardent members of your movement that they’re going to be reviled by everyone for the sake of the mission. But that’s exactly what Jesus does…because He’s telling the truth.
So I find myself asking, “If Jesus speaks these words to me, what is my response?” And I’m reminded that the Christian faith is so far removed from the complacent, cultural Christendom so many of us are associated with in the Bible belt of the southeastern United States. Walking with Jesus is far more risky and far less comfortable than we sometimes make it out to be. Malignment, abuse, and ostracization are part and parcel to the way of Jesus.
He offers a word of hope: But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives. (21.18-19) And yet, the call remains.
Am I willing to be hated for the sake of Christ?
A hard saying, indeed.