“The world…hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.” (John 7:7)
Those profound words are shockingly different than many of the depictions of Jesus we’re used to seeing. In our culture Christ is often miscast as an inoffensive, all-accepting love guru. He never talked about sin or judgment, only peace and harmony.
But according to Jesus Himself, that wasn’t entirely the case. According to Jesus, the world hated Him precisely because He highlighted the reality of sin.
The Gospel of John earlier told us that “the world did not know Him…and His own people did not receive Him” (1:10, 11). Why was this? Because “people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (3:19). The world, and even Christ’s own people, hated Him because His blazing torch of holiness exposed the darkness of their sins. The creatures of darkness howled and shivered with rage as the pure light of righteousness intruded into their unrighteous kingdom.
Jesus wasn’t hated because He talked about love. He was hated because He talked about sin.
But wait a minute! Didn’t Jesus come to show the world the love of God? Didn’t the Gospel of John also earlier say, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” (3:17)? If Jesus didn’t come to condemn, but to save, why would He talk about sin, a topic guaranteed to draw the irk, ire and offense of so many people? If Jesus was so loving, why would He publicly declare to the world “that its works are evil”?
It was precisely because of love, and His mission to bring salvation, that Jesus confronted the world. Before anyone embraces the Savior, they must realize they need saving. They must realize the immensity of their sin before a most holy God and plead for the mercy that is freely given only through the atonement of the cross. In order to be saved, men need to turn from their sin.
That’s why the first words of Christ’s ministry were, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Mt. 4:17) That’s why He told His listeners, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Lk. 5:32), and “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Lk. 13:5). That’s why “He began to denounce the cities where most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent” (Mt. 11:20).
Jesus told the world that their deeds were evil before God and that the only hope for restoration was through His sacrifice. He loved them enough to warn them of their evil. And the world responded in two ways. The first group fell to their knees in repentance, putting all their trust in the work and person of Christ, and they were met with these words: “Your sins are forgiven” (Mk. 2:5). They were recipients of the love and salvation of Jesus. But the second group drew back in revolt and offense, refusing to relinquish their sin, hiding in the darkness and remaining beneath the storm clouds of judgment. According to Christ’s own words, they “hated” Him.
To which group to do we belong, the light or the dark? And if we belong to the light, what sort of Jesus are we preaching to the darkness? An inoffensive Jesus who winks at sin? Or the Lord and King who “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30)?
Jesus was hated because He talked about sin. But Jesus talked about sin precisely because He was loving.