I’ve been meditating recently on the subject of being hated, disliked or misunderstood. Why does this happen to so many Christians? What causes a believer to be the recipient of another persons hatred? Do we create this reaction in others? Does one draw it out of them? Are we simply victims? Or is there something we aren’t seeing in suffering?
I don’t think I have been hated or disliked by too many people in my life, although it has happened, but I have certainly been misunderstood. In fact, in a recent self discovery workshop I realized that my number one fear is to spend my life surrounded by people who don’t understand me. A unique fear indeed because I’ve never heard another person express the same thought and also something that seems unavoidable. And after further thought I’ve realized I have that fear because so much of my life has been spent around people who don’t get me and looking back at how miserable that felt a future of similar experience seems bleak at best.
When people misunderstand someone long enough it can lead them to dislike them, and with time that dislike can spoil into hatred. In my experience misunderstanding must be communicated and corrected quickly, or things will get ugly fast.
There are a billion reasons why someone could be misunderstood. But for my purposes I want to dissect the concept of a Christian being misunderstood by unbelievers or false believers. The Lord led me to the scriptures this morning, specifically to the book of 1 John. Chapter 3 of this book brought great comfort and revelation to my questions. John writes in Chapter 3 verse 1, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” He goes on to speak on the issue of righteousness saying,
“Let no one deceive you. he who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous…In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you.” (John 3: 7, 10-14).
We could boil it all down to this: As a Christian you will be misunderstood because the world cannot/will not know (i.e. understand) you without knowing God. Giving the example of Cain and Abel he shows us that misunderstanding can lead people into all sorts of emotions that, left unchecked, can turn into hate which leads to all manner of evil…even murder. John goes so far as to say, “Don’t marvel if the world hates you.” As if to exclaim, Duh! It’s going to happen! Don’t sit there in shock about it! I mean, if the world hated Jesus who did NOTHING but love people, how would they not hate you and me who are flawed and making mistakes everyday?
Luckily for us, God doesn’t leave us alone to wrestle with these truths of what it actually means we’ll face as believers. He wants us to be aware but the rest of the book brings comfort explaining that God is always with us and how love conquers everything. It’s certainly worth a read if you’re in the midst of a season of attack or misunderstanding.
I make the argument that Christians who are hated by those who know them and those who do not are not victims, nor are they deserving, they are simply bystanders stuck in the cross-fire of peoples anger against God. If you represent light in the midst of darkness, those caught in darkness are likely to spew on you what they feel against God. They take out their anger, pain, anguish, torment, self loathing, fear, resentment and every other emotion possible out on you, projecting what they actually feel towards God and against themselves.
Depending on how severe the altercation may be it can sometimes be VERY difficult to resist retaliating back in anger. But because we know that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” we know that we aren’t actually up against a person but a spirit operating through them. While the person attacking you may be spitting out their anger at God cloaked in viciousness towards you, a spirit is simultaneously using them to try to accuse and imprison you to the lie(s) spoken from this person. If we are able to step back from the experience and see everything for what it is we will be able to: 1) Forgive our attacker and diffuse our anger or desire to defend ourself and 2) War accurately against the spirit who is the one truly coming against us, and 3) Maintain love and joy in the midst of chaos so that we might grow.
God gives us knowledge and prophetic insight so that we can go through the fiery trials of this life and come out on the other side not even smelling of smoke. As His word says in Psalm 37: “The Lord makes firm the steps of those who delights in Him; though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord upholds them with His hand.” Attacks, misunderstanding, even people who dislike and hate you may come in this life. And even if you stumble a bit in the midst, God will always uphold you and He will use all of it to refine you.
So why does it happen to us? It happens because people fear what they do not know, and unless they know the Father they will never truly know you. What people fear they will misunderstand and what they misunderstand they may even end up hating. It happens because many people are mad at God and if you represent God publicly they may take their pent up aggression out on you not realizing how misguided they are. These experiences may not be avoidable but they are survivable; not only survivable but in the Kingdom we should be able to thrive in the midst of adversity. Psalm 23 says, “You prepared a table before me in the PRESENCE OF MY ENEMIES. My cup runneth over.” The silver lining of it all is God’s retribution for your sufferings is to bless you in the face of those who would love to see you destroyed. Not only that, but there is a tribe of people who WILL understand you. Who know the same trials that have befallen your life and are able to rally around you esteeming you high above your mistakes and pain. They are your brothers and sisters in Christ; the true believers. They are the grace givers and the ones high in mercy. And they are out there, let God bring you to them. It’s pretty rad when you’re home.
Don’t fear being hated. As my Pastor Bill says, “If you don’t face attack every now and then in life, you have to question whose side you’re actually on.” Fight the good fight, friends.