Nobody hates Jesus.
Sure, there are people who aren’t on Jesus’s side, but that’s a little different.
I was never on Derek Jeter’s side. I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan, and he played for the New York Yankess. Still, I don’t hate Jeter. He seems like a nice enough guy. His face is a little too shiny for my taste, but that’s just me. Some people like shiny faces. Rooting for your own team does not mandate hating the other. Most folks that aren’t Christians are a little skeptical of Jesus, for sure. Maybe His face is too shiny, I don’t know. But there’s respect there. I don’t think they have anything against him, really, I just think they’re doing their own thing.
Nobody hates Jesus.
Back in the day it was totally different. Jesus was a divisive figure back when he wore Birkenstocks and roamed the ancient Middle East. Lots of people hated him back then. What’s interesting is who hated him. It wasn’t the lost people–they were totally down with Jesus. It was the religious establishment that burned with envy. The Pharisees felt threatened. The Sadducees were definitely not in his camp. Teachers of the Law and people who had something to lose were the ones that stirred up the crowd against him. They’re the ones who spent a whole night persuading the Romans to nail Jesus to a cross.
The smutty sinful folks, by contrast, listened intently to his teaching. Remember the woman at the well? What a floozy! She evangelized and converted her whole village. My guess is she had been skeptical of religious people her whole life. She’d had broken relationships with five men. She was on her sixth when she met Jesus. She spent what seems like the better part of an afternoon chatting with him. They talked theology and he asked real intrusive questions. It was awkward at first, but it ended well. Sychar (her town) was never the same, thanks to the floozy that met Jesus. If you don’t believe me, read John 4. It’s all true.
What a guy, Jesus. Seriously.
I hope I never arrive on that day when it’s more about me than it’s about him. It’s a common attitude to assume the world hates Jesus because they don’t stand for what we stand for. So often this comes across like we’re defending Jesus. We may not intend it that way, but I do think “the world” sees it this way. I wonder how Jesus views it. Does He need us to stick up for Him? Sometimes I wonder if He would prefer us to just get out of his way, because there’s a floozy or a self-indulgent rich guy or someone who works for the IRS that he wants to have an encounter with, like the Woman at the Well or the Rich Young Ruler or Zacchaeus the Tax Collector. They all accepted Christ. I’m sure there were plenty of those types of people who didn’t, too, but the Bible tells us a lot about people who did. Sometimes I wonder why that doesn’t happen more these days. Some folks think it’s because people hate Jesus and are against everything he stands for. The world is in the dump, that’s why!
That might be true in some cases. But it doesn’t explain it all. Because, in my experience, nobody really hates Jesus.
What if Jesus isn’t the problem, but we are? What if I am the problem–standing in the way of Jesus reaching out to someone who is far from him? What if people have no problem with Jesus and his message and his way of life, they just can’t get to know him because I’m twisting his words in ways they were never intended to be twisted?
There’s one person who hates Jesus: Satan.
If I were Satan, I’d be ticked. Jesus gets all the credit. People pray in his name and all that jazz. The only people that pray in Satan’s name are creepy and wear all black and have lots of cats and stuff. If I were the devil, I’d try to get the people that pray in Jesus’s name to not really mean it. I’d try to get them more worried about building their own Kingdom than his. I’d try to get them to talk about God in general terms more and Jesus in specific terms less. I’d try to get them to stand up for what they believe in more than they talk about Jesus.
Since nobody hates Jesus, I’d try to get people to hate Jesus’ followers instead. Maybe then I could make Jesus guilty by association, or at least make more people less interested in him, because on the surface his followers are bozos. They still wouldn’t love me, if I were Satan, but at least then they’d serve my purposes.
If I were Satan, I’d do the same thing I’ve been doing for centuries–get God’s people off mission. Not a lot, just a little. If they’re busier worrying about how bad everyone else is, they won’t notice how watered-down their own lives have become. If I were Satan, I’d give up on trying to get people to hate Jesus. That seems like a lost cause at this point. He’s too great. I’d just try to get them to hate the church instead.
Good thing I’m not Satan, because something like that happening would be a real shame.
“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” Luke 6:27-36
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44
May we all live out the enemy-loving tactics of Jesus. May those we disagree with see our love for God, one another, and them and be drawn to that love instead of repelled by our disunity with one another and our judgement toward them.
“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 1 Peter 2:12