Me Against the World
Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. . . Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 1 John 3:13-15
My wife and I recently watched one of those classic underdog movies in which the protagonist was an eccentric, awkward, unpopular kid, who of grew up be an eccentric, awkward, unpopular adult. Misunderstood and socially inept, everyone in the movie underestimated him as he fought against all odds – and most of the world – to eventually save the very world which ostracized him. We of course, were cheering for him the entire movie. We love this story – that of the unlikely hero whom the world hates but who eventually saves the day. The underdog inspires us. We want him to win because most of us can identify with feeling weird, unpopular, or inadequate at some point in our lives.
There seems to be some of this sentiment in today’s passage. In it, John reminded us that as followers of Christ, the world will hate us. He described ours as a conflict between good and evil, in which the wicked world will detest us for our virtue. As Christians, we see ourselves on the side of good, being mistreated by the big bad world. There’s a part of us that revels in being God’s underdog, believing that even though things seem bleak now, we know the end of the story. We believe that God’s people will be vindicated in the end.
The passage – about love and hate – doesn’t simply allow us to assume that we’re on the side of good though. In it, John insisted that we must love our neighbors. Failing to love them – in action, not just in words – is the same as hating them. Hatred, John said, is spiritually equivalent to murder. As Christians, we must love our neighbors and if we fail to do so, we hate them, and are just as guilty as if we had murdered them. John said the world will hate Christians because of our love, but he also challenged us to introspection – Do we truly love our neighbors? Are we on the side of love or are we on the side of hate?
We may see ourselves as the heroic underdog in the story, but John suggested we may be fooling ourselves. We may easily be part of the problem. What would our neighbors say? If asked, would our neighbors say they see Christ in us? Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18). In loving our neighbors, we prove that we’re on the side of good. If we don’t, then we’re simply fooling ourselves.