The World’s Hatred
During China’s Boxer Rebellion of 1900, insurgents captured a mission station, blocked all the gates but one, and in front of that one gate placed a cross flat on the ground. Then the word was passed to those inside that any who trampled the cross underfoot would be permitted their freedom and life, but that any refusing would be shot. Terribly frightened, the first seven students trampled the cross under their feet and were allowed to go free. But the eighth student, a young girl, refused to commit the sacrilegious act. Kneeling beside the cross in prayer for strength, she arose and moved carefully around the cross, and went out to face the firing squad. Strengthened by her example, every one of the remaining ninety-two students followed her to the firing squad (from Today in the Word, February, 1989, p. 17).
Jesus in today’s gospel warns us when He said: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first…. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you,” (vv. 18, 20). What does Jesus mean when he says “the world?” The “world” in Scripture refers to that society of people who are hostile towards God and opposed to His will. When Jesus talks of persecutions also, He was referring to the sufferings and persecutions His disciples would undergo at the hands of the Jews and the Romans in proclaiming His teachings. The “world” that rejects Jesus and His disciples can expect the same treatment. Jesus leaves no middle ground for his followers. We are either for Him or against Him, for His kingdom of light or for the kingdom of darkness.
Why have been Christians persecuted in the course of the centuries? One of the reasons for it is suggested by author Richard Neuhaus in his book Doing Well and Doing Good the Challenge of the Christian Capitalist (p. 98). He wrote: “”The basic disposition of Christians to those outside the community is that they are potential members of the community. Nonetheless, the community does have enemies. When Christians say that Jesus Christ is Lord, they are saying that nobody else and nothing else is lord, and that is a good way to make enemies.”
Suffering is part of human existence. It is because a life with Jesus is not a bed of roses. Thus, we should not pray for an easy life. Instead, we pray to become stronger persons in facing challenges of life and bring out the best that God has given us.
But today except in hostile non-Christian countries, the persecutions referred to by the Lord are no longer felt. In day-to-day life these may take the form of being ostracized; sufferings from overly strict parents or wife from an overbearing husband and so on and so forth.
And so at the end let us reflect these words from Dr. Dale Turner entitled, Why Me. He said: “In all fairness, if we ask the ‘Why me?’ question in regard to our burdens, we should also ask it in regard to our blessings. We take for granted 100 days of perfect health, and then grumble about one day of aches and pains. We drive the freeway hundreds of times without incident, and then ask, ‘Why me?’ the one time we have a flat tire or engine trouble. We casually accept the fact when our family is together for the holidays, but when we are separated, we dwell on our loneliness. How often do we say, ‘Why me?’ as we count our blessings? Rather than feeling sad about what we don’t have, doesn’t it make more sense to feel a kind of rollicking rejoicing over everything we do have?”