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.”