‘If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, “Servants are not greater than their master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It was to fulfil the word that is written in their law, “They hated me without a cause.”
‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.
‘I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me.
This September, I returned to Sarajevo, a city I visited Interrailing ten years ago. As a child, I was aware of the siege of Sarajevo, the troubled history of its country and the many atrocities that took place – the hatred of people because of their faith and their culture and the barbarity of one human for another. Museum after museum – and graveyard after graveyard – tell of people who have been subjected to extreme and violent persecution and hatred.
We hope that such violence and hatred against people based on religion, race, gender, sexuality and ability are mistakes of the past. Yet, the past 18 months have seen an increased rhetoric of hate in our media and politics. We’ve seen far-right groups and candidates get increased media exposure and electoral success. Hate crime figures have seen a dramatic increase. The tone of our politics seems to be increasingly negative: setting up barriers, breaking down unions, excluding those among us.
Jesus knew what it was to be hated, despised, and rejected; he could relate to what it meant to be hated “without a cause.” Jesus refers to those who are hated as friends with him, called by him to serve. Jesus promises God’s Spirit to those who are hated, those who are scorned, and those who are persecuted. For all who have been on the receiving end of racist, sexist, homophobic or ableist abuse or violence, Jesus’ words speak of a God who knows what it is to be hated, and the wrongdoing of those who hate.
Perhaps the only, and slight, upside to hate is that God can relate to the sufferings. But the problem with hate is that it is so negative. Hate doesn’t show signs of growth or development. Hate doesn’t bring people together or share community. Instead it puts a wedge in communities, cuts ties and breaks bonds. Jesus clearly shuns this. We should too.
Loving God, may we testify to your love and peace, as companions for those who are hated by the world. May we work to bridge divides in communities, to form bonds of love and peace between peoples, and grow as your people. Amen
The Rev’d Dr Matthew Prevett is minister of St Andrew’s URC, Monkseaton.