18 If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 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. 20 Remember what I told you: A servant is not greater than his master.[a] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. John 15:18-23
See also: Matthew 18:7-9, Mark 13:9-13, Luke 12:4-12
Jesus drew a line in the sand here. In the world in which they lived, people could either follow Him or be “of the world”. There could be no straddling of this line… it was either one side or the other.
History. Let’s look at what was happening in the world at that time:
Rome ruled the Western world, everything around the Mediterranean Sea, north and east to the Danube, Western Europe, the British Isles up to what is now Scotland. This was a lot of territory for a relatively small group to rule over and maintain order. Beginning with Julius Caesar, the Romans deified their rulers. (Note: Julius Caesar was not an Emperor, but an elected Dictator. Caesar Augustus was the first Emperor to be deified.) Statues of the rulers were erected throughout the Empire and people had to kneel before the statue and swear allegiance to their “lord”. The Romans didn’t care if people in the Empire worshiped other gods as well so long as the swore allegiance to god-Caesar. After all, the Romans had bushels of gods. What was one more?
Christians said “I have only one “Lord”, Christ Jesus; I can have no other.” The penalty for this was death.
The general population could not execute a person for refusing to swear allegiance to the god/Emperor, only government officials could do that. but all a citizen had to do was to press charges against another for being a Christian and a death penalty could be imposed, and often was. Many highly influential officials and writers of the time described these “religious cultists” as being guilty of sedition and treason against Rome. We know from history the result. Christians were crucified. Christians were later fed to the lions. Only one of the Eleven was not killed for his faith, and John was sentenced to a barren penal island. As we are told in the Bible, Christians were persecuted in the synagogues, stoned in the streets. Killing of Christians became a popular public sport.
From the Apostles to the common man and woman, Christians were hated… just as Jesus had said they would be. Christians of the time had to choose between this world and that of the Father. They could not straddle the line in the sand. During various periods, Christians have continued to be persecuted to the point of death for their faith, even down to the level of Christian denomination… as have been peoples of other faiths.
Today. It’s happening now.
We all all aware of the persecution, even the killing of people in the Middle East simply because they are Christian. It is not limited to followers of Islam, however. In India, villages have been destroyed and some of their residents killed by mobs because they were Christian. In China, Bibles have to be smuggled into the country. People have been executed for being Christian. In North Korea, Christians are sentenced to hard labor camps… a death sentence. Even here in the USA, Christians are feared by many. there is a movement to remove “In God We Trust” not only from our coinage, but from any and all government documents and buildings. The fight against the Ten Commandments continues in our courts. Our Presidents says that the USA is not a Christian nation and either denied or ignores the Christian foundations of this country. (See the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights and Gettysburg Address for what they say) Health care reform as it is proposed could force the Catholic Church to put abortion into it’s health insurance plans and force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions. Major leaders in our federal government call people who stand on Christian values “wing nuts” and “Astro Turf). “One nation under God” should follow school prayer if many get their wish.
Jesus drew a line in the sand… we can’t straddle it. We are of this world or we are of His world.
Alive in The Word