You Will Be Persecuted, So Love One Another – John 15:17-21

You Will Be Persecuted
Photo by: jucanils (Creative Commons)

If you are a faithful Christian you will be persecuted. You’ve heard this before. But have you ever been told that because of persecution that will come you ought to be loving one another?

Date: February 5, 2012
Title: You Will Be Persecuted, So Love One Another
Scripture: John 15:17-21
Speaker: Kevin A. Pierpont, Higgins Lake Baptist Church
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Already in our study of chapter 15 here in John’s Gospel we’ve heard Jesus command that His followers love one another. 

Now we come to verse 17 and the command is repeated. Obviously this is important that God’s children love one another. And it’s certainly for our good that we obey this command, truly loving one another, as Christ loved the church, reminds Ephesians 5:25, and gave Himself up for her.

But there’s another reason for the importance of this command to love one another. It has to do with the strength and encouragement that faithful followers of Christ are going to need as they live and love for God’s glory as they live in this world. 

Why is the love of God’s children for one another so important? Let’s look at the text here in verses 17-21.

17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.

19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 

20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.

So again Jesus says here in verse 17, these things I command you, so that you will love one another. Why is the love of God’s children for one another so important? 

The answer I think is revealed by way of a contrast here in the text. 

The contrast is the difference between the love God’s children are to show toward one another and the lack of love for God’s children by the world. 

If you know the Bible you know that in Christ the victory is yours. But you also know by this passage and others like it that there’s also tribulation in this world that awaits the faithful follower of Christ. And the trouble we’re talking about here is trouble in the variety of persecution the believer will face for being faithful and obedient to Christ. 

If you are Christ’s, and victory is yours in Christ. You can count on it. But also true is that if you are in Christ, persecution is also yours, you can count on it. We’ll hear both things to be true in John 16:33, where Jesus says, 

33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Jesus overcomes the world. That is, the world that is now under the control and power of Satan. Though believers may be influenced by Satan they are not under His control. On the other hand, unbelievers are under the power of Satan. Yet God’s Word gives us hope and encouragement that in Christ we too have overcome the world. But that does not remove followers of Christ from the reality of persecution.

This is why the love we’re to have for one another is so important. 

So first of all we are to love one another because we will not be loved by the world. In fact, the world will hate you if you are a follower of Christ — especially if you are an obedient follower of Christ. Note what Jesus says in verse 18.

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.

We should really read the “if” here at the beginning of verse 18 as “because.” That’s the idea in the original language. So the idea here is because the world hates you.

You need the commands of Christ, and you need to obey them and you need to love one another, because if you are a faithful follower of Christ you are hated by the unbelieving world. That’s what Jesus is saying in verse 19.

19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 

The faithful and obedient follower of Christ is no longer “of the world”; you’re no longer influenced and controlled by the world, you no longer do business the way the world does business. No, you now live for Christ and because of this the world hates you.

So love one another because your brother and sister in Christ are going to need the encouragement you will give them when you love them as Christ has loved you.

But that’s not all we see in verse 18. Jesus reminds us that we can’t expect to be treated any better than He was treated. So He says in verse 18, know that it has hated me before it hated you. And then in verse 20 he says,

20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

So love one another, because you can’t expect to escape persecution from the world if you are truly obedient and faithful to Christ. Christ was obedient in all things to the Father — and it was the Father’s will for the Son to be crucified, that sinners might be forgiven their sins and saved and kept by Christ for all eternity. And those who are obedient to Christ will also also be persecuted. 

And this persecution is not a mild dislike. This is hatred. The world hated and crucified Christ and because the world hates Christ it will also hate those who bear the image of Christ. It will hate those who identify themselves as Christ’s by their obedience to Him.

So Jesus says, love one another. And you’re going to need the love of your siblings in Christ and they are going to need your obedient love because you will not be treated well by the world and as you are persecuted. You are going to need the encouragement and strength of one another as you wait for the Lord.

That’s why Jesus gives this reminder in verse 21.

21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.

Don’t think it strange, obedient believer, that you are hated by the world. It’s Jesus they really hate and it’s those that represent Him they persecute because of their hatred of Christ.

So how should we respond when persecuted?

First, I think the point Jesus makes here in verse 17 needs our full attention. 

17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

So how should we respond when persecuted? 

First, be certain that you aren’t neglecting the command of Christ to love one another. 

If you are being persecuted you’re going to need the love of your brothers and sisters in Christ to help support and encourage you that you are not alone. You don’t suffer alone. You are not the only one who is persecuted for the sake of Christ. And you may need to model the love of Christ for others so that others are encouraged to also love one another.

Note too that your response to persecution can and should be one of rejoicing. Jesus says in Matthew 5:11-12

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

No, joy in the midst of persecution may not be your natural inclination but blessed, or joyful and content and at peace are you, when you are persecuted on account of Christ. And because you are, you rejoice that you are Christ’s and that you are seen as belonging to Christ by others and that your reward in heaven is great. 

Your response to persecution should also be one of prayer for and love toward those who persecute you. As Jesus says in Matthew 5:44,

44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

We hear it in also in Romans 12:14,

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

So when persecuted because you are faithfully obeying Christ, pray for those who persecute you. 

When persecuted, follow the example of Christ and accept the persecution that identifies you as a child of God. Because when you don’t return evil treatment for evil treatment, you most faithfully share in the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ, who when he was persecuted did not lash out at those who persecuted and even crucified Him, but rather prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)