…and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:22)
Perhaps for too long Christians in the USA have not been hated, at least not apparently. Generally speaking, followers of Jesus in our country have not been hated like they have been in other nations and in other centuries. To be sure we don’t want to be hated, nor should we attempt to create ways to generate such hatred. But be certain of this, if we are standing for the truth of Christ Jesus we should not be surprised that we are hated, rather we should be surprised that we are not. Christians every year are being martyred by the tens of thousands. In perhaps a lesser way Christians—even in the USA—are being verbally “hated” in communities, in congregations and even within families (vv 21,34-37).
Jesus predicts that we will be hated for His name’s sake. The “name of Jesus” especially identifies who He is and what He has done. When we stand for this truth, identifying who Jesus is as the incarnate second person of the Holy Trinity and proclaiming His vicarious and victorious death and resurrection, the world that has been usurped by Satan will naturally hate us. The world abhors the fact that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and in fact this identity of Jesus is what caused the world to condemn Him to death (Luke 22:66-71).
The world hates a righteous God who has authority to destroy both body and soul in hell (v 28). The world gnashes its teeth when it hears of absolute right and wrong. The “self-help” world, which claims total self-sufficiency, wants to hear nothing about needing a Savior from sin and death. The world is convinced that it has the power to overcome “evil” and that ultimately science will overcome death. How dare these Christians say otherwise!
However the hatred for those who follow Jesus did not begin with our Lord’s prediction recorded in Sunday’s Gospel. The “prince of this world” has always led “his” world to such vitriol and abhorrence against the truth of Christ. Thus Christ’s people both before and after Him have been hated for His name’s sake. The prophets who predicted the Prince of Peace were frequently martyred (e.g. Mt 23:31,37). Throughout history there has been repeated fulfillment of what the inspired poet of Israel explained in Psalm 2: “…The heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing. The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take council together against the LORD and against His Christ.” Indeed those who stand for the name of Jesus have been and will at times be brought before kings, governors, judges, etc., as was the case with our Lord, with Peter, Paul, Luther, and thousands of others. Thankfully they (and we) do not speak on our own, for, as Jesus promises, it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you (v 20). The evil spirit(s) have no chance against the Holy Spirit!
But what if we are actually killed by the hateful world? If we stop and think about this prospect—really deeply consider it—we quickly realize that on our own we will not be able to stand up for Jesus unto death. Who can or will die for a man who lived some 2,000 years ago? No one—by themselves. When the time comes, however, even as we have the Spirit of our Father giving us the right words to say, so too we have the Holy Spirit empowering us even to die for the name of Jesus. For the One who gives us victory over death and the grave promises, I am the resurrection and the life. We will thus be enabled by His Spirit to fear not those who destroy the body (v 28).