All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
I grew up without a father. My mom worked hard and I owe her more than I can ever repay, but a side-effect of growing up without a father was that, as a child, I craved approval of men. I wanted to impress them, I wanted to be accepted by them, because I felt, subconsciously, that I had been rejected by my father. As a result, my sense of self-worth fluctuated drastically depending on whether or not I felt accepted.
Christians, though, possess a special kind of immutable sense of self-worth. It reminds me of palm trees. I recently saw a photograph of the aftermath of a severe storm that ripped through a rain forest in Queensland, Australia. The storm’s name was Tropical Cyclone Yasi. What caught my eye was that, amidst the chaos of debris and fallen trees, the palm trees still stood tall.
Hurricanes sweep ashore with their violent winds and cause devastation, but the palm trees, though they bend, often do not break; in fact, I’ve read that palm trees are made stronger and their roots dig deeper because of the high winds of severe storms. Like a palm tree in the sand, believers are only made stronger by opposition and oppression. Christ-followers are not dependent on the acceptance of those who are in the world. On the contrary, we count ourselves blessed when we are rejected and hated by the world on account of Jesus.
Nowadays we use the word “hate” liberally, don’t we? We say that we “hate” the way we look in that picture or “hate” the taste of kale. However, we know from Scripture that the Lord takes the concept of hate far more seriously than we do. Consider 1 John 4:20, which reads, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
In the Greek the word used for hate in Mathew 10:22 actually means “to pursue with hatred.” This isn’t a passive dislike that Jesus is referring to. He is saying that if you actively follow Him, then you will be actively detested and pursued with hatred by some.
The good news is that, although we’re promised opposition, believers are also promised a present help in times of need and a future hope that can’t be taken from us. Christ has given us a Helper, the Holy Spirit (John 14:26) and has promised to be with us always (Matt. 28:20). That is why the Church flourishes amidst oppression. For instance, despite the fact that the Chinese government has tried various tactics to apply pressure to protestant churches, the number of Christians in China has exploded under persecution from approximately 800,000 believers in 1949 to more than 60 million today.
Many of us will never know firsthand the degree of hate and persecution endured by our brothers and sisters in Christ. However, as we meditate on today’s topic let’s keep the persecuted Church in our prayers. And when the time comes for you to endure opposition, no matter the extent of that opposition, let’s rejoice because we are in good company! As Jesus explained in Luke 6:22-24, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.”