We have been discussing John 15. In the first part of the Chapter Jesus discusses his relationship with believers. The vehicle he uses to illustrate the point is a vine with branches. The branches cannot live, grow or bear fruit apart from the vine, but they are not just sustained by the vine they are part and parcel of a single plant. Jesus lives in believers and believers have their life in and through Christ.
Starting in Verse 18 he shifts his focus a bit to note that the unity of believers and Christ will have other results besides this mutuality of existence. In short he says that people who are not part of the vine, he calls it the world to distinguish between those who are of him and those who are of the world, will treat those who are part of the vine like the vine.
Think of it this way: every branch of a poison ivy vine is poison ivy and gets treated accordingly. Every branch, every part of the body of Christ is, to some extent, Christ and will be treated accordingly, that is, like Christ was treated. If he was beaten, mocked, persecuted, humiliated, scorned, and ultimately killed, what can Christians expect.
This really does not jibe with our world view as citizens of the Bible Belt. Our beliefs form (or at least inform) the dominant culture and nobody is really persecuting us. This is not true for Christians in most of the world, even today. At the very least, being a committed Christian in Western Europe will at least get you considered a kook and made a social pariah. In Germany if you are a Christian and want to home school your children to insure they learn your values instead of the values of the state, your children get taken away.
In China being a committed Christian means serious persecution and perhaps a sentence to a Reeducation Camp. In parts of Africa and the Middle East being Christian is a straight up death sentence. Seems like, once again, Jesus was right.
But what about us, I mean this is about us. Are we hated and persecuted? What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you because you were a believer?
Now notice I’m not asking what somebody did to you that’s mean, or what bad thing happened because you made a bad decision or were a jerk (I’ve had plenty of all that). No, what happened to you just because you were a Christian. If you’re like me you have a hard time coming up with much of anything. Lets at least admit the possibility that could be because we aren’t acting very much like Christians.
Even with the the pronounced ‘cultural Christianity’ here in the Bible Belt, people who act with a servant’s heart, who truly put others before themselves, who act like Christ stand out.
Here’s an example: I am leery of helping people in serious need. I’ve seen these people, many of them are users, they go from charity to charity living off of others until the money runs out, never taking the initiative to improve themselves. When the money finally runs out, for whatever reasons, they move on without a thought of gratitude for the kindness they have received.
By not helping those kinds of people as I come across them, I protect myself from harm. I say I will not be abused.
In Philippians 2 we are urged to be of the same mind as Christ, who, made himself a servant of those who would abuse him, even though he was God. What right, then, do I have to say “I will not be abused” if Jesus submitted to the ultimate abuse?
That’s what I think Jesus is trying to convey to his disciples, following him means doing ALL of the things he did, not just the ones we like. If Jesus is our sustenance, our very life, we will be like him in everything.
In Philippians 3 Paul says, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Is that what we want?