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John 15:18-25 Study Guide: Opposition Will Come

Community Group Study Guide — Opposition Will Come
John 15:18-25

Study Information:
How do you cope with animosity towards you? None of us really like to be hated or opposed but we all face it and often for things we cannot control. Animosity can stem from jealousy, bigotry, political differences to even just their projection of their own hurt onto someone else. In this section of the gospel of John, Jesus prepared his disciples for the cross, resurrection and his absence and he wanted to make them aware that they will face persecution because they were his disciples. This kind of hatred would be different because they would take out their hatred for Jesus on his followers. As you grow in godliness and your relationship with Christ you can expect opposition to come. This kind of persecution will not be present all the time, but will pop up in your life from strangers, friends and even family. We will see two reasons for this hatred from this passage and then we will look at a temptation we need to resist. 

You Can Expect Opposition Because the World Hated Jesus.
John 15:18, 20-25
The word “world” in the bible can refer to the earth, various people groups or corporate sinfulness, as in the world system that opposes God and his ways. Jesus is using this term in the third sense and reference that there is a current, like with a river, that our world and culture pushes us towards. Followers of Jesus will be distinct from that cultural current due to their faith in Christ. Paul warned about this in Romans 12:1-2 when he wrote “do not be conformed to the world but rather be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” The world will hate followers of Jesus because it first hated Jesus. We should keep in mind that this is not a hard and fast rule, Jesus talked about people seeing our good works and giving God glory, which is a positive association (Matthew 5:18). You may have experienced times when your Christian life has caused people to think deeply about God and they expressed appreciation for what you’ve done. However, Jesus warned us that we ought to expect times where people hate us simply because we represent him. He even warned his disciples in John 15:23 that to hate Jesus it to hate the Father, meaning someone cannot love God and hate Jesus at the same time. Practically speaking this means you can become the punching bag for someone’s angst against God. 

Why did the world hate Jesus? Jesus tells us in John 15:24 that his works and his words are the cause of this hatred because it exposes our sinfulness. His inner righteousness fuels jealousy, feelings of inadequacy and defensiveness. Some people are drawn to the holiness of Jesus like a moth to a light, but others are repulsed by it because it offends how we’re living and we want to stay stuck in sin. 

Jesus does not want his disciples to expect a smooth life and we should not think that we are blessed or cursed by God based on how much we’re accepted or rejected by the world. A godly life is one where in what you say and do you are trying to demonstrate Christ and often, but always this will be met with opposition.

You Can Expect Opposition Because You Are Not Part of the World System
John 15:19
The people of God are in the world but are distinct from the world and that can be a cause of some of the opposition we face. Jesus said that if you are just like the world they would love you, but since we are chosen out of the world we face hatred. This teaches us that the world loves selfishly which is a direct contrast to how Jesus loves sacrificially (John 15:12). The world loves those who are like it and who have “earned” its love. 

It is not a hard and fast rule but if you face very little resistance in your life for your faith it could be that you’re following the flow of the world rather than being transformed by Christ (Romans 12:1-2). This is not permission to be abrasive or argumentative; Paul tell us to be wise with how we speak to outsiders (Colossians 4:4). However if you find that you accept false beliefs and embrace the world’s sinful practices you will find that you meet very little opposition from those who do not follow Christ. 

It could be that your Christian life has been smooth because you just keep your head down and go with the flow of the world. At the same time, it could be that you face persecution because you’re just really difficult and abrasive to be around. Also, often people persecute us for things that have nothing to do with the gospel like our sinful choices, political view, lifestyle choices and things like that. We’re tempted to think that we’re being persecuted for our faith when that may not be the case. Often this comes from thinking that every Christian should be just like us in how we use our money, vote, parent or school or kids or work. If you are tempted to think that being a Christian looks exactly like how you’re living it may be good to spend some time with some Christians who think and live a little differently than you do. 

We are called to live differently as followers of Jesus so your faith in Christ should have real world implications. That reality will create tension that will at times lead to opposition and persecution. 

Resist the Temptation to Return Evil for Evil
When Paul talks about persecution he often encourages the church to respond with love even when the world does not “deserve it” and to not return evil for evil (Romans 12:17, 1 Thess 5:15). You can expect that trying to live a godly life will meet opposition and will mean that you likely won’t be accepted by all your friends and family as you follow Jesus’ teaching. We should have strong convictions and be involved in the public square in a way that is Christ-like, but we will need to fight the temptation to seek vindication or evil against people who oppose you. We can often want people who have opposed us or whom we see as the enemy to be punished and Paul’s admonition is to leave that in God’s hands. It is difficult but when you’re excluded, gossiped about, persecuted or opposed, the Lord would have you love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you rather than have you seek to repay evil with evil. When we stoop to repaying evil with evil we engage in sinful practices and end up fighting the battle with the weapons of the world and not with the spiritual resources that we’ve been given in the Spirit. It is not easy, but God is faithful and as we will see in the next study guide, he has given us the Spirit for a time such as this. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read John 15:18-25

What are some reasons followers of Jesus can expect to be persecuted based on this passage of scripture?

Can you think of some situations where a Christian may be hated or opposed for something that has nothing to do with their faith in Christ but they think that it is related? 

Read John 15:19, in what area of your life do you feel the greatest pull to conform to the world? It may be hard to see this in your own life, but prayerfully consider it and consider asking people close to you what they think it might be. Read Romans 12:1-2. What is the difference between being conformed to the world and being transformed by the renewing of your mind?

What are some reasons you may be tempted to repay evil for evil? When you experience those moments, what do you find to be helpful to resist that temptation?