Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world – therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, “Servants are not greater than their master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.’
If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own.
We live in a fickle world where moods and fancies change with the wind. Sometimes we feel that we understand what is going on around us, and sometimes it feels like a complete mystery. In today’s reading we hear Jesus speaking of this dilemma, the dilemma that confronts us every day of our lives.
When we are young we tend to work hard at ensuring our fashionable status. We want to be accepted. We want to demonstrate where we fit in our social circle through the clothes we wear, the music we listen to and our attitude towards the society in which we live. We want people to recognize our status as ones who belong to the world. We are afraid of being singled out as one who does not understand, one who does not belong.
For many this craving for acceptance and recognition changes as we grow older. It does not go away, of course, but it does change. We reach a point where the transitory nature of keeping up with the latest fashions no longer holds us in its thrall. But, that does not mean that we stop wanting to be seen as belonging, we simply change direction and emphasis. Perhaps, our behaviour is adapted to suit the demands of our work, the social circle in which we find ourselves living or some other worldly driving force. Whatever the motivation, we still seek to be seen as belonging to the world.
If we resist the temptation to be seen as a credible part of the world in which we live, whether through choice or just ‘missing the mark’ at which we are aiming, we often become isolated, even rejected. We find ourselves labelled as misfits or antisocial. We find ourselves being pressured into seeking the compromise that will make us acceptable to our colleagues and neighbours, sometimes our family.
Today Jesus offers advice and encouragement to those who do not want to tread the same ‘fashionable’ path as the majority. Today Jesus is warning us of the potential consequences of holding on to our faith and commitment to God, even when the dictates of fashion say otherwise.
Jesus understands that faithful discipleship will never be ‘trendy’. He warns us of the rejection that may confront us, but he also offers us the consolation of knowing that such rejection was experienced by him first.
Jesus also warns us of the danger of thinking we can ‘tweak’ the demands of a faithful life to create some sort of half-way house between true discipleship and total social acceptability. This ‘ideal’ situation simply does not exist. We are called to follow the path of the Lord and Master who went before us, living a life without compromise, without the need for worldly adulation.
Jesus calls us to stand firm. Let us pray for the strength to do just that. Let us not throw ourselves into the arms of those whose whims and fancies would drive a wedge between ourselves and God. Rather let us hold firm in our discipleship, committed completely to sharing the love and the light of Christ with all whom we meet in this world. Let us be the ones who set the trend for others to follow.