When you’re six years old and that infamous, duplicitous thief named Fred steals what could possibly be the world’s greatest undiscovered artefact; the pinnacle of mankind’s engineering exploits; the highlight of your entire 72 months of existence – your glow-in-the-dark Pikachu key ring – you are justifiably convinced that death at the stake is the only appropriate jurisdiction. You set about drafting a devastating summation for the day of the trial: ‘His key ring did not possess the greater powers of nocturnal-luminosity, thus he became conceited and jealous resulting in a wedgie and the unspeakable theft of the aforementioned object. To conclude, I leave the jury with this one, undisputed fact: I, Emi “Atticus” Ramirez, hate him.’
‘EMILIA! Don’t say that about your brother! Hate is such a strong word.’ And with that; case closed.
Fourteen years on, and the word ‘hate’ has largely been removed from my vocabulary. But for God, it seems, ‘hate’ is not too strong a word:
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 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.” (John 15:18-20)
If your experience of adult life has been one of hurt and hate, you will feel these words profoundly. Particularly coming from a place where hate is taboo (both in conscience and in language), it can be hurtful to discover the existence of hate even in the absence of the spoken term.
So here is the question: how do we deal with hate and persecution when it comes our way?
Sadly (or gladly!) God has already promised us that difficulties are part and parcel of being his sons and daughters. Perhaps you see this in difficult relationships with parents, friends, colleagues and partners. You feel strange, different or alone. Listen to Jesus:
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
This coming from the man (or should I say God) who suffered more trouble in this world than we can imagine. If you are reading this, knowing you are sharing in his suffering, then you will also share in his glory. And what depth of comfort this brings. So when you feel the hate of the world upon you, do as Jesus did:
“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:21-23)
But among all this comfort, there is also caution. If your life does not seem different or difficult, if it looks much like the rest of the world, then it is time to ask: how fervently do I seek after God? Where is Jesus in my priorities?
In the end, a hated and troublesome life is one of pure joy knowing that Jesus is by our side. Not belonging to this world means belonging somewhere far better. And to be loved by God is far greater than to be loved by the world.
(Photo drawn by Emilia Ramirez-Vidal)