Jesus warned His disciples that they would be hated (Jn 15:18–19) just as He had been. Today there is a strong undercurrent of disdain for Christians everywhere.
Why should Christians be hated? The answer is not primarily in what we do, but in what we stand for and what we believe.
The sense of the negative present tense imperative is to “stop being surprised,” implying that these believers were astonished by how much the world hated them. The author is telling them to cease being shocked at their response. Just as Cain unreasonably hated Abel and sought to kill him, so the world will be delighted to eliminate all true Christians.
A core part of Christianity is its willingness to be rejected by the majority. Attempting to be popular and acceptable leads to compromise, syncretism, or excessive temptations. This is understood as a part of the Christian life. It is a cross we are commanded to bear.
The attempts of believers to minimize this hatred against Christians by seeking “friendship with the world” James declares as “enmity with God…Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
The word friend means “beloved, dear, follower, or supporter” and thus refers to wanting a deep bond with the world for personal benefit. This is distinct from loving the world as God does. It means to seek or desire what the world offers for selfish satisfaction and pleasure.
Since true believers do not need worldly things or pleasures for meaning and fulfillment in life, they seem strange and different. Pagans of the first century came out of many evil and perverse practices. When the believers decided not to participate in the world’s excesses, they were considered unsociable , a counterculture, or an anomaly; they were seen as rejecting the traditions of the nation. They suddenly were viewed as aliens, enemies, untrustworthy and virtual traitors.
The writer of Hebrews put it this way: “Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come” (Heb 13:12–14). Don’t be surprised by the world’s “reproach”; rather, anticipate it—yea, welcome it!
“Forgive me, Lord Jesus, for wanting to be more a friend of the world than part of the unashamed friends that follow You so closely. Teach me to be content to be faithful to You regardless of how I am treated.”