Although Christ was addressing His apostles on that occasion, I believe His words are applicable for all disciples in any age. Genuine, devoted followers of Christ will suffer persecution (II Tim. 3:12). When one is not of the world (i.e., he doesn't think or behave like the world), the world will despise him. A child of God should not desire that all men love or praise him. "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets" (Luke 6:26).
Jesus was hated by the world, but yet it would seem that many Christians today are loved by the world. Why is that? There are several factors, but one of the more significant (as I see it) is that many Christians today are not really living called-out, sanctified lives for the Lord! "Oh, but Stephen, things are different now than they were in Jesus' day!" Yes, they are, but what if Jesus walked this planet in the twenty-first century? Would He be loved by all today? Absolutely not! Darkness still hates light, and the world still hates that which opposes it.
Many Christians do not experience any persecution and are never hated by the world because they live and think like the world! Take a moment to reflect: does this describe you in any way?
A comment made by a dean from a Christian university ties in with the point I'm trying to make. He said, "The old morality of the world is better than the new morality of the church." What exactly did he mean by that? His point, as I understand it, is that the morals of the world have continued to plummet over the past several decades, but so have the morals of Christians. In fact, if one were to compare the morals of an average follower of Christ in 2007 with the morals of an average Christian who lived approximately fifty years ago, the difference would probably be startling.
What were the standard values of America in 1950? In that year, would a family have attended a movie that contained graphic violence, cursing, or nudity? How many Christians attend such today? Too many I'm afraid. In 1950, would a husband and wife unashamedly divorce simply because they couldn't get along? How many Christians divorce their mates for frivolous reasons today? Too many I'm afraid. Would a typical American in 1950 have worn the same, immodest attire that many Christians wear today? Would the America of 1950 tolerate the kind of filth on television that is regularly viewed with delight by Christians today?
It is undeniable that there is moral decay all around--in government, schools, recreation, modesty, sexuality, the home, etc. When the church is no longer counter-culture, it loses its relevancy. The church is only relevant when it stands for what it believes in and opposes the ways of sin. When the church blends in with the world (in an effort not to offend or to be politically correct), it loses its distinctiveness. When morals are lowered and convictions compromised, Satan is the winner. Can you see a difference between the life of a typical Christian and a typical non-Christian? More importantly, can others see the difference between your life as a follower of Christ and the life of those who do not believe?
Friends, let's be honest: if the world loves you, you must be of the world. Let us commit ourselves to the standard of God's word in everything that we say and do. May we never be afraid or ashamed of living a called-out, sanctified life for God. We will make some enemies in so doing, but we will be on the Lord's side and a clear line will be seen between the world and the church.