I am often reminded of the passages in The Gospel of John which describe a Christian's relationship to the world. In chapter fifteen, Jesus says: "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you" (John 15:18 KJV), and later in chapter seventeen: "I have given my followers God's word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (John 17:14 KJV). Isn't that weird of Jesus to say? Jesus was walking around in the world, talking in the world, eating bread with his disciples in the world, and then turns around and says something like 'we are not of this world.' It was a little strange to me too, but I understood this passage a little bit better when I read Hezekiah's story in the book of Isaiah:
The World's Mockery
In Isaiah 36, King Hezekiah is dealing with Rabshakeh, an immoral, belligerent messenger of the King of Assyria. Rabshakeh is telling the Jews to come out of their protected city, and surrender because every other nation that trusted in their 'god' to save them has been ransacked. He even promises Israel that the King of Assyria will give them thousands of horses - a tempting offer - if they are able to find two thousand men who can actually ride them. That was meant as a low blow, something Christians experience on a daily basis. After hearing some of the mockery coming from Rabshakeh, the Jewish leaders ask him not to speak in the language that the soldiers/peasants, who are standing at the wall, can understand (Isaiah 36:11). They are trying to protect the weaker brothers, who may waver in their faith by hearing so much ridicule. However, Rabshakeh continues in his mockery at sin and God (again, something all too familiar to some of us).
"What is your god going to do, huh?" Have you ever heard something similar? I've had family members flip Jesus the bird and cuss him out loud, thinking they would convince me that He didn't exist because God didn't smite them with a mighty smiting. Something I'm sure Rabshakeh was also thinking.
After this whole event is related back to King Hezekiah, we see the right kind of response. He is grieved, and manifests it outwardly (Isaiah 37:1). Sometimes we think that we can't be saddened because of the state that our world is in, and because of the mockery and persecution that we face, but I think that's unscriptural. So many times in the Bible, people make a mock at God, and God's people will mourn; they tear their clothes and pour ashes on their heads - which was a way of showing the world that they didn't care what they looked liked, they were sad, and humbling themselves before God.
Encountering Depraved, Hard Hearts Hezekiah sends to the prophet Isaiah, to hear from God about what should be done (Isaiah 37:2). Isaiah tells the King that Rashakeh will hear a rumour about a war back home, and will have to leave (Isaiah 37:7). However, before leaving for home, Rabshakeh bestows a few parting shots (Isaiah 37:10-13). This is also very common, if you're one who shares the gospel on a regular basis. You're in a conversation about Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit seems to be giving you the right words, and the person on the opposite end should have no other option but to surrender to the grace of God, and believe on the Lord. However, something strangely depraved happens: they stiffen their neck and harden their heart and say something rather rude about the gospel and Jesus Christ their Savior. Far from the repentance you expected!
But, again, we have a wonderful example of what to do when the world bestows parting shots on us, in Isaiah 37:14-15 : "And Hezekiah received the letter [of Rabshakeh] from the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed unto the LORD..." So, when your brother, sister, mother, father, cousins seem reluctant to accept the LORD, bring their parting shots to God, and pray earnestly for them. God can change their hearts to receive the gospel. It may take a while. I have been saved almost 4 years, and have been waiting those 4 years for my family to come to God. But love always hopes (1 Corinthians 13:7), so I eagerly wait the day that my family comes into the Kingdom of God.
Believers Will Be Persecuted
In Mark 10, Jesus gives us some encouraging words, if you can bear to hear them. After telling the disciples that rich people rarely make it into heaven, because their treasure is here on earth, they ask him: "Who then can be saved?" (Mark 10:26). Jesus tells them that for men, such as us, it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible. Peter, as is his custom, speaks up and says "we have left everything and followed you" (Mark 10:28). And in the following verses, we have a clear picture of what it means to follow God: Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Mark 10:29-31).
If you understand this passage, it doesn't say that we will be free of the world's hatred, but rather that we will suffer persecution in this life. But, there is something to rejoice about, because in the age to come (after this life ends) we will inherit eternal life, and in this life, we will inherit brothers, sisters. If you've had an experience like mine in coming to Christ, a lot of your family turned away from you, all of your old friends said adieu, and perhaps you were even asked to leave your home. Rejoice! You have gained true life, and you can now beckon your friends and family to join you. Follow Hezekiah's example: humble yourself before God, love and pray fervently for those that persecute you.