John 15:18-19. Not Belonging

John 15:18    “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

At the end of John’s elaborate chiasm of the vine and the branches, where fruitfulness and love are crowned by joy, we are jarred by the truth that the world will hate us. Our relationship with the world is precisely the opposite of our relationship in the vine. And it’s all about belonging, or not. Those in the vine are loved as its own. Those belonging to the world are loved as its own. And the world hates those who do not belong to the world.

The fundamentally oppositional nature of this dynamic runs contrary to parts of our culture. We say we like to ‘live and let live.’ We don’t like to judge others. We are free to do whatever we like so long as we don’t hurt anyone else. And so we happily excuse the ‘victimless crimes’ — if there is such a thing. In this context, Jesus’ warning about being hated by the world as foreigners unsettles us.

Two truths emerge from Jesus’ words. The first is that the nature of the world’s ‘love’ is such that it hates those who do not belong. The mantra of the world is qualified as, ‘live and let live so long as you’re one of us.’ Don’t rock the boat. Don’t challenge. Don’t confront. This is not really love after all. The second truth is that the world’s hatred of the Christian is based on solidarity with Jesus: it hated Jesus and so it hates the Christian.

On the other side of this divide, the Christian is loved by Jesus because they belong to him. The quality of this love is not as the world’s. Instead, Jesus loves his own with the love he experiences from the Father: unconditional and selfless.