The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify of it that its works are evil.
If the world hates you, you know it hated me before it hated you.
If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
1 John 3:13
Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you.
1 John 2:15
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
1 John 3:14
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.
For the last twelve years or so, Steve and I have spent long hours talking and making sense of the world we entered after leaving the cult. The world has changed markedly and continues to do so at a rate of knots. But even more disturbing is the fact that the church has also changed. We understood that we came out of a place which was an exception to the rule. Once we wrapped our minds around the concept of the term ‘cult’, we expected to find different behaviour in other churches. We have been deeply concerned to find that in fact, much of the behaviour we saw in the cult is being replicated in other Christian organisations; churches and schools.
We were used to being treated badly by cult leaders, but we were not expecting to encounter abusive behaviour from what might be termed ‘ordinary Christians’. What we discovered was that our cult experience was the thin end of the wedge. In fact, as we went back over our histories, two separate and disconnected paths, we realised that we had both experienced really horrible behaviour from church people most of our lives.
Why was this? Were we at fault? Or were we just unfortunate enough to have been the target of a lot of badly behaved Christians? Was our experience unique? I don’t think so. In the last twelve years we have done a lot of research and found that large numbers of Christians are leaving the church and not for the reasons that the so called researchers, like George Barna
, have suggested. More often the stated reason for leaving churches is because the gospel is no longer being preached. Genuine brothers and sisters in the Lord are offended with the false gospels, the false teachers, and the false prophets who arise in their midst. They are faced with the choice of attempting to change the church or leaving. It seems many, even after years of trying to get the leaders to see sense, have simply given up and looked for another place to fellowship. What they are finding is that there are very few churches now which appear to preach the gospel. If the gospel is not being preached, people sitting in the pews are not getting saved. We heard the testimony of one man who sat in David Wilkerson’s Times Square Church
and said that it was the first time he had ever heard the gospel in 20 years of being a Christian. It was then that he actually became born again. This is not an isolated example.
On this note, one preacher we have found to be the epitome of a good solid bible teacher is a man called Charles Lawson
. He is a Baptist pastor in Knoxville Tennessee. He is what you might call an ‘old time pastor’, but he has done his research and is willing to discuss things from the pulpit that most pastors will not. He talks about end times, the rapture of the church, he talks about the one world government and the occult. He is filled with the Spirit and is a genuine brother in the Lord. We delight in listening to his messages because for 12 years we have looked to find something similar in our country and have failed. He is surely not the only pastor who preaches the gospel, but he is one we have spent a lot of time listening to.
Good teachers aside, I believe there are two issues intertwined in this matter. On the one hand you have the hatred of the world for genuine believers, and on the other hand you have people who identify as Christians but are in fact not genuine believers because they have not been transformed. They have either come into the church on ‘another gospel’ or they have not been born again. So they are in fact still ‘in the world’ despite the fact that they believe in God. Now bear with me, this is not about being accusatory, it is about observing and recognising the false and discerning the true.
Peruse the above verses. You will find that Jesus made it abundantly clear that the world hated Him. The world hated Him because the world is not of God. Since born again Christians are of God, then it follows that the world is going to hate you. This is not a maybe. Jesus was not saying ‘if’. This is a rule of thumb. The apostle John also reminds his readers that it should not be a surprise if the world hates you. Because you are of God.
If the above is true then why am I seeing a whole lot of love for Jesus from the world. And why is there such a conflation of world and church now in so many denominations. Everybody from Hollywood to the White House are saying that they are Christians. And its not just happening in America. I live in Australia and for the longest time our Prime Ministers made a big deal of being church going folk. The Queen goes to church and is the head of the Church of England. Are they all born again Christians? No. No they are not. How do we know this? Because the world loves them, the world embraces them and they are not suffering persecution. And of course, their behaviour shows they are not.
I think what is happening here is that they are worshipping another Jesus. The Jesus that they worship has a different source, the world. The Jesus who walked the earth two thousand years ago and died on the cross, that Jesus was hated by everybody. Nobody wanted that Jesus to rule over them. Has the world suddenly changed since then? No, interestingly, just as God doesn’t change, evil doesn’t change.
I think a lot of Christians assume that just because other Christians believe in ‘God’ that we are all worshipping the same God. Not true. There are many ‘Christ’s out there, and Jesus said that this would happen in the last days. But there are also many who are sitting in church believing they are brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus Christ, when in fact they have not actually even met Him. They have not had a true conversion experience. They might have been experiencing some kind of ‘spiritual’ experience, which it appears is a common thing even amongst pagan tribes. We westerners tend to believe only in science and rational thought. This is all well and good until you realise that much of what passes as science is rooted in pagan religion. We have been fooled into thinking that there is no such thing as supernatural beings or supernatural powers. Yet the Bible makes it clear that Satan is real, demons are real, angels are real, and they are constantly around us despite the fact that we cannot see or hear them. Our religion has been influenced by such movements as the reformation – which in fact was simply a version of Catholicism and not true biblical Christianity (although it contained elements of it) – and the charismatic/Pentecostal movements which were founded on various supernatural occurrences during so called ‘revivals’ over the last couple of hundred years. Many of those supernatural experiences were not of the Holy Spirit but were demonic in origin, and these experiences and the doctrines which support them have influenced our teaching and our expectations as believers.
We believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we are not cessationists. We have prayed for and seen healings, miracles, baptisms in the Spirit etc. But what we are looking for is transformation. We need to see changed lives which are led by and bear fruit from the Holy Spirit. That fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control. We tend to see the opposite in many Christians, or sometimes fake fruit. Let’s look at that.
True Fruit Fake Fruit
Joy High Spirits or Loudness
Goodness Doing the right thing
Self Control Legalism
Christians in Western countries tend to believe that things should be a certain way. We expect that Christians should act a certain way, generally according to the denomination we belong to. Reformed churches behave this way, Pentecostal churches behave that way, Baptists do this, Presbyterians do that and so on. What we have not really done is read our bibles, take note of what constitutes a changed life, the life of Christ within us, the life empowered by and filled with the Spirit of Christ. We do not measure ourselves against scripture, we measure ourselves against the latest self-help book or teacher, not realising that these people are often not born again either.
A true born again Christian loves other true born again Christians. You know when you have met somebody who is truly a new creation, you can see it in their eyes, the Spirit within you witness to the Spirit in the other person. There is a unity which exists which does not need outward expression or conformity to a set of denominational rules or a set of rules which says ‘this is what a genuine bible believing Christian does’. If the Spirit of him who raised Christ Jesus from the dead dwells within you, then He who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies. That same Spirit will empower you and that same Spirit will lead you and guide you.
Now obviously, Christians can be carnal.
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? … (I Corinthians 3)
When Paul says carnal he is referring to immature Christians who are still spending most of their time walking in the flesh and therefore acting like ordinary men, unbelievers in the world. We have obviously met a number of these. The sort of behaviour though that we have experienced is more along the lines of people who don’t change at all over time. They are not carnal sometimes and spiritual other times. They really don’t have any Christian characteristics at all. They are simply religious.
What we have to come to terms with in this so called post-modern society is that there is no longer a ‘church’ denomination which contains a bunch of born again believers. True believers are now scattered. Has it been this way from the beginning? It is possible that this is so. If true believers are salt and light then we cannot all stand in one clump, how can we salt the earth if we are sitting in one bunch every Sunday or weekday. It is not possible for us to have a savoury effect. Have you ever over-salted a soup or stew? I have. You can’t ‘unsalt’ it, you have to throw it out, you can’t eat it. Likewise, we as believers are meant to be spread throughout the world and the so called ‘church’ on the earth. We can come together to encourage each other, but I am starting to see that this coming together is going to get harder and harder, and we must find each other through other means than the local church organisation. The church has now become like the world and the world like the church. There is no longer any delineation, and the true believers are going underground. Maybe it was always going to be this way at the end.
We should no longer be surprised when we are hated both by the world AND others who identify as Christians. IF the Holy Spirit is in you and not in the other so called Christians, you will be treated by them as you are by the world, because they are actually of the world. Scripture tells us that there were believers in Paul’s day who turned away because of their love of the world; Demas (2 Timothy 4:10) was one of them. We are told that if we are friends of the world we cannot be friends of God. (James 4:4).
The conclusion of the matter for us is that those who abused us and refused to change were not Christians to start with as they a) had no love for the brethren and b) were not transformed and c)did not have the fruit of the Spirit. They were of the world and so hated us. This goes for every other Christian we have not been able to communicate with or has treated us with disdain. This is the only explanation that is viable. Genuine believers may have bad days, or have some struggles with sin, but they do not habitually treat others with rudeness or disrespect. Nor do I know anyone, who does not have a character disorder, even in the world, who would treat a perfect stranger with rudeness or disrespect. But people who you know who habitually act coldly and arrogantly towards you yet claim to be believers and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ are not the genuine article.
It is in fact a huge relief for me to finally allow this truth to embrace my heart. I do not have to feel bad that there are those out there who claim to be Christian who do not love me, despite the fact that I have striven to attain that love over the course of many years. These ones cannot love, they do not have the love of God in them.
Only true believers can love true believers.
Only the world hates true believers.
And never the twain shall meet.