Summary: He’s telling you not to be surprised “if the world hates you”, and then he’s telling you why it hates you. It’s precisely because “we love our brothers.”

In preparing the sermon for today, a singular thought pressed on me repeatedly. We read the stories of Jesus. We recite the Creeds of Christendom, and we share the understanding that Jesus was fully God and fully man . . . the divine paradox. But how often are we really willing to make the sacrifices in order to be obedient to Him?

In 1 John 3, we find two sentences in rapid succession which, if you really read them carefully, should certainly make you pause. You’ll find them in 3:13-14:

“Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.”

Consider carefully what John’s saying here. He’s telling you not to be surprised “if the world hates you”, and then he’s telling you why it hates you. It’s precisely because “we love our brothers.” And who are “our brothers”? They’re all those people who share this world with us.

The love that we’re called to show toward others so profoundly goes against our very grain – that the world will hate us for living it. To obey Christ is to be offensive to most of the world. Even knowing this, we’re called to love anyway, and the most profound demonstration of that love was Jesus himself.

Let me take you back to the Gospel of John chapter 13 verses 1-17. A complete reading isn’t necessary, but if you want to turn to chapter 13, perhaps God will show you even more than I can (but you know that’s only a “maybe”).

In chapter 13 is the story of when Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. I’d like you to focus on one particular aspect of that story. John describes it this way beginning in verse 1: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.”

Now I want you to consider John’s words in verse two: “. . . the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.” Clearly, the Apostle John wants us to realize that, even as Jesus was washing the feet of Judas, he knew Judas was about to betray him.

Betrayal is not something people can easily tolerate. Yet, Jesus not only seemed to tolerate it, He even showed love and compassion toward His betrayer. This so flies in the face of the world’s thinking that the world hated Jesus for it. It hated Him for being better than they were. He was able to do something that they were unwilling to do . . . He loved those who persecuted Him. It hated Him, and it will hate us equally as much – if we equally love. Yet, this is precisely how Jesus calls us to live . . . totally in accordance with His example.

Jesus did what He did because of what He knew. On the last night that He would spend with His disciples, we’re told (beginning in verse 3) that Jesus “rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.”

Jesus knew where He came from and where He was going. Before He left them, though, He would teach them one more lesson – arguably the greatest lesson of them all.

Beginning in verse 12, Jesus explained His lesson. He taught them that true happiness comes from humble service. He gave them and us this example for us to follow today.

Bernard Rimland, director of the Institute for Child Behavior Research, conducted a fascinating study on the principle of the Golden Rule. Rimland found that, “The happiest people are those who help others.”

Each person involved in the study was asked to list ten people he knew best and to label them as happy or not happy. Then they were to go through the list again and label each one as selfish or unselfish, using the following definition of selfishness: “a stable tendency to devote one's time and resources to one's own interests and welfare with an unwillingness to inconvenience one's self for others.”

In categorizing the results, Rimland found that all of the people labeled as “happy” were also labeled “unselfish”. He wrote that those “whose activities are devoted to bringing themselves happiness . . . are far less likely to be happy than those whose efforts are devoted to making others happy.” How very contrary to conventional thinking is THAT? Rimland concluded: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Now I want you to consider what Judas knew. (21–30). Judas knew what he was about to do, and he was doing it for purely selfish reasons. Scripture doesn’t really tells us this, but I believe the evidence supports this theory.

Judas entered Jerusalem amid the cheering crowds – right along with Jesus. Judas also knew that Jesus had just entered the most dangerous place for Jesus to be – in the center of His enemy’s stronghold. Add to this the fact that Jesus, himself, had never shown any inclination for worldly power. So for Judas, one rather apparent conclusion would be . . . Jesus wouldn’t last very long.

Now reflect on what John told us in chapter 12:4-6 when Mary poured expensive oil on the feet of Jesus. “But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot . . . said, ‘Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’ This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.”

Judas loved money, and the source of his revenue was about to be stopped. What was he do? It’s been suggested, and I believe rightly so, that he found one last opportunity to profit from the life – or death – of Jesus.

Jesus knew the secret Judas harbored in his heart. But Jesus did not reveal it. In fact, He treated Judas just like the others, and they detected nothing amiss. In retrospect, we can discern what an extraordinary love that was.

Jesus not only protected the man who was about to betray Him, but He even washed that man’s feet! Jesus – with the towel – is the perfect example of humility; Judas with the bread is the perfect example of hypocrisy and treachery. (With the Word, Bible commentary)

John 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” “Yes”, we say to ourselves, “but that was Jesus. And I’m not Jesus!” Yet, that is exactly what you and I are called to become. As the second part of 3:16 says, “And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”

But how is that possible? How can we possibly become like Jesus when we’ve been born of this world? Frankly, I don’t believe we can . . . at least not by any power OF this world. But by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, “all things are possible for those who believe.”

When 19th century American artist James Whistler was at the height of his artistic career, a wealthy patron purchased one of his pictures on the condition that the artist would accompany him home and help select a spot to hang the picture. Once at his mansion, the man held up the picture first here and then there, each time asking, “How about this?”

Finally, Whistler said, “You are going about this all wrong. What you must do is remove all the furnishings from the room, hang the picture where it will be best displayed, and then arrange the furniture in relationship to the picture.”

The reality is that many try adding Christ to their lives, but they don’t want change their lives. God doesn’t work like that. What He requires is that we first place Him as the focal point of our existence.

We need to remove all the furniture and treasured collectables that we’ve grown so attached to . . . all those trappings that trap us in this world. We must strip our walls and empty our closets where we mistakenly think God never looks. Then – and only then – can we place God at the very heart of our lives . . . the focal point of our existence. Only then can we arrange the many details of our lives so that Christ is truly alive in us and His love will radiate from us. - - - As it is written, “But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33)

Please join with me in prayer.