By David Baumann
A Reading from the Gospel of John 15:12-27
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
18 “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. 19If 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. 20Remember 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. 21But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25It was to fulfil the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’
26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.”
Politics, the media, entertainment — wherever it’s reflected, Western culture is changing, and I count myself among the many who can become anxious and cynical when those changes seem inimical to the faith. But is this what God wants?
In today’s lesson, Jesus tells the apostles bluntly, “The world hates you.” He goes on: “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.” It’s easy here to mistake cynicism about the world, or even righteous indignation, for persecution or suffering for Christ’s sake. But this isn’t about our relationship to “the culture,” it’s about Jesus and his merciful saving mission, whatever the cultural tides.
Jesus came into the world to save the world, but many in the world (including those who should have known him best) refused the message: “He came to his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). But there were those who did receive him, and when they did, they were removed from slavery to the world and its anxieties: “You are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world.”
Where a given culture becomes openly inimical to the faith, or to the signs of God’s kingdom, it is easy for Christians to become anxious, cynical, and afraid. But if we do, we become like the world. We must remember that ours is the world that “God loved… so much that he sent his Son…” (John 3:16) and “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). And even though “the world” has rejected the Son, the Son hasn’t given up: “The Spirit of truth… will bear witness about me”; and “You also will bear witness.”
Times like ours are difficult indeed, but every difficult time is the soil in which saints are made and potential converts learn that they need saving.
David Baumann has been an Episcopal priest for 47 years, mainly in the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Springfield. He is now retired and has published nonfiction, science fiction novels, and short stories.
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Today we pray for:
St. John’s Church, Savannah, Ga.
The Diocese of Bentiu (Episcopal Church of South Sudan)