This is one of my favorite chapters in all of the New Testament. What a fountain of encouragement and challenge. It seems even more relevant that Jesus speaks about the world hating his disciples. We feel that in our day. There is no shortage of hate in our society. Our culture has gone so far as to redefine “disagreement” to be synonymous with “hate”. If you disagree with me, that means you hate me.
Jesus tells us to not be surprised when we are hated. Peter also held onto this teaching. But his instructions in 1 Peter 4 make a very important distinction: “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” 1 Peter 4:14-16
Let me translate that into more modern language: “Don’t be hated because you are a jerk, be hated because you are a Christian.” Too often in our day, Christians are rude, obnoxious, gossiping, foul-mouthed, unloving, and self-centered, yet thinking that people hate them because they are a Christian.
Nope. They hate you because you are rude, obnoxious, gossiping, foul-mouthed, unloving, and self-centered. The early Church was known for its sacrificial care for the poor and sick as well as their love for the brotherhood.
In our American culture, the church is known for its divisive politics, self-preservation, and moral failures. No wonder they hate us. We should hate those things too.
Let us turn back to the command of Jesus in verse 9, “Abide in my love”. Let’s put far less attention on worldly things (political power, financial stability, personal comfort) and increase our focus on heavenly things found in 1 Peter 4: Love, hospitality, service, and proclaiming the truth, “in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”
Father, you are love. You have shown your love that while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me. Thank you for my salvation in Jesus and the new life you have given me in him. Help me now to keep in step with your Spirit, showing love and service to those in the world. Help me to be the light and love in the world, just as Jesus was.
“Father, forgive me when I fail at this. When my actions do not reflect your love and care as well as they should. Help me to know when I need to seek forgiveness from someone because of an argument or disagreement. Give me the humility to reopen the way for Gospel conversations that might have been
closed because of my actions or words. I thank you that you choose to use
people like me for your purposes in this world. Strengthen me in your Spirit to do your work.”
When was a time that you were hated specifically because of the name or message of Christ?
When was a time that you were hated for something other than the name or message of Christ?
Describe a time that you set aside your personal opinions or preferences for the sake of maintaining an opportunity to share the Gospel with someone?
Is there anyone you need to humbly approach in order to reopen a channel for the Gospel message?
How can we be sure that our disagreements with people do not give them the impression that we hate them?