The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. (NLT)
At first glance, Jesus’ words seem to consign us to being leper like outcasts in society. Doomed to irretrievable unpopularity and shunned by respectable society. That is a gross over simplification.
When Jesus speaks of the “world” he is speaking of that aspect of human society which is hostile to him, which wants to run its own race. Those who hate him will not take kindly to us, or at least to our sincere beliefs. Shop keepers will still serve us, nurses will still care for us, bus drivers will still stop for us. But our worldviews may well antagonise them if we get to the point of sharing them.
Jesus is warning us that following him is not striving to win a popularity contest. He was loved and respected by some and utterly rejected by others. What happened to him can happen to us. So, if we find ourselves rejected or misunderstood at times, it need not come as a surprise.
But one cautionary note: we can bring scorn and hostility on ourselves. We may act unwisely, speak insensitively and be unpopular. In such cases we are not to console ourselves with the notion that we are being persecuted for our faith. It may be we are suffering the consequences of our folly. We resist the temptation to strive for popularity, but also resist the silly idea of striving for unpopularity.