Hated Without Cause
“They hated me without cause.”—JOHN 15:25.
1, 2. (a) Why are some puzzled when Christians are spoken against, but why should such speech not surprise us? (b) Which sense of the word “hate” will we consider in this article? (See footnote.)
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES strive to live by the principles found in God’s Word. As a result, they enjoy a fine reputation in many lands. At times, however, they have been misrepresented. For example, a government official in the city of St. Petersburg, Russia, recalled: “Jehovah’s Witnesses were presented to us as some kind of underground sect sitting in the darkness and slaughtering children and killing themselves.” But after working with Jehovah’s Witnesses in connection with an international convention, the same official observed: “Now I see normal, smiling people . . . They are peaceful and calm, and they love one another very much.” He added: “I really do not understand why people tell such lies about them.”—1 Peter 3:16.
2 Servants of God find no pleasure in being maligned as evildoers, yet they are not surprised when people speak against them. Jesus forewarned his followers: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. . . . It is that the word written in their Law may be fulfilled, ‘They hated me without cause.’” * (John 15:18-20, 25; Psalm 35:19; 69:4) Earlier he had told his disciples: “If people have called the householder Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household so?” (Matthew 10:25) Christians understand that bearing such reproach is part of the “torture stake” they accepted when they became Christ’s followers.—Matthew 16:24.
3. To what extent have true worshipers been persecuted?
3 The persecution of true worshipers has a long history, reaching all the way back to “righteous Abel.” (Matthew 23:34, 35) It has not been limited to a few isolated incidents. Jesus said that his followers would be “objects of hatred by all people” on account of his name. (Matthew 10:22) Further, the apostle Paul wrote that all of God’s servants—including each one of us—should expect to be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:12) What accounts for this?
The Source of Unjustified Hatred
4. How does the Bible reveal the source of all unjustified hatred?
4 God’s Word reveals that from the beginning, there has been an unseen instigator. Consider the brutal killing of the first man of faith, Abel. The Bible states that his murderous brother, Cain, “originated with the wicked one,” Satan the Devil. (1 John 3:12) Cain took on Satan’s disposition, and the Devil used him to carry out his wicked aims. The Bible also sheds light on Satan’s role in the vicious attacks on Job and Jesus Christ. (Job 1:12; 2:6, 7; John 8:37, 44; 13:27) The book of Revelation leaves no doubt as to the source of the persecution of Jesus’ followers, stating: “The Devil will keep on throwing some of you into prison that you may be fully put to the test.” (Revelation 2:10) Yes, Satan is the source of all unjustified hatred against God’s people.
5. What is behind Satan’s hatred of true worshipers?
5 What is behind Satan’s hatred of true worshipers? In a plot that betrays colossal conceit, Satan has pitted himself against “the King of eternity,” Jehovah God. (1 Timothy 1:17; 3:6) He contends that God is unduly restrictive in his rulership over his creatures and that no one serves Jehovah with a pure motive, that people do so only for selfish gain. Satan claims that if allowed to put humans to the test, he can turn every one of them away from serving God. (Genesis 3:1-6; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7) In vilifying Jehovah as an oppressor, a liar, and a failure, Satan seeks to establish himself as a rival sovereign. Thus, his rage against God’s servants is driven by his craving to be worshiped.—Matthew 4:8, 9.
6. (a) How are we personally involved in the issue of Jehovah’s sovereignty? (b) How does an understanding of this issue help us to maintain our integrity? (See box, page 16.)
6 Do you see how this issue touches your life? As a servant of Jehovah, you have likely found that while doing God’s will requires earnest effort, the benefits of doing so are surpassing. What, though, if circumstances in your life made it difficult, even painful, for you to continue to comply with Jehovah’s laws and principles? And what if you seemed to receive no benefit in return? Would you conclude that it is not worthwhile to go on serving Jehovah? Or would love for Jehovah and deep appreciation for his magnificent qualities move you to continue to walk in all his ways? (Deuteronomy 10:12, 13) By allowing Satan to bring a measure of hardship upon us, Jehovah has given each of us the opportunity to furnish our personal answer to Satan’s challenge.—Proverbs 27:11.
“When People Reproach You”
7. What is one tactic the Devil uses to try to turn us away from Jehovah?
7 Let us now consider more closely one of the crafty acts Satan uses in an effort to prove his side of the issue—his use of lying reproach. Jesus called Satan “the father of the lie.” (John 8:44) The descriptive name Devil, meaning “Slanderer,” identifies that one as the foremost slanderer of God, his good word, and his holy name. The Devil employs innuendos, false accusations, and outright lies in challenging Jehovah’s sovereignty, and he uses these same tactics to malign God’s loyal servants. By heaping reproach on these Witnesses, he can make a severe trial even more difficult for them to bear.
8. How did Satan bring reproach on Job, and with what effect?
8 Consider what befell Job, whose name means “Object of Hostility.” In addition to causing the loss of Job’s livelihood, his children, and his health, Satan made Job appear to be a sinner who was being punished by God. Though he had been highly respected, Job came to be despised, even by his relatives and close friends. (Job 19:13-19; 29:1, 2, 7-11) Further, by means of false comforters, Satan sought to ‘crush Job with words,’ first insinuating that he must have committed some serious sin and then directly condemning him as a wrongdoer. (Job 4:6-9; 19:2; 22:5-10) How disheartening that would have been for Job!
9. How was Jesus made to appear to be a sinner?
9 As the foremost upholder of Jehovah’s sovereignty, God’s Son became the chief object of Satan’s hostility. When Jesus came to earth, Satan sought to make him look spiritually disfigured, as he had Job, making Jesus appear to be a sinner. (Isaiah 53:2-4; John 9:24) People called him a drunkard and a glutton and said that he ‘had a demon.’ (Matthew 11:18, 19; John 7:20; 8:48; 10:20) He was falsely accused of blasphemy. (Matthew 9:2, 3; 26:63-66; John 10:33-36) This distressed Jesus, for he knew that it reflected unjustly on his Father. (Luke 22:41-44) Finally, Jesus was impaled as an accursed criminal. (Matthew 27:38-44) In maintaining perfect integrity, Jesus endured much “contrary talk by sinners.”—Hebrews 12:2, 3.
10. How have the remaining anointed ones been a target of Satan in modern times?
10 In modern times, the remaining ones of Christ’s anointed followers have likewise become objects of the Devil’s hostility. Satan is described as “the accuser of [Christ’s] brothers . . . , who accuses them day and night before our God.” (Revelation 12:9, 10) Since he was ousted from heaven and confined to the vicinity of the earth, Satan has intensified his efforts to paint Christ’s brothers as despicable outcasts. (1 Corinthians 4:13) In some countries, they have slanderously been called a dangerous sect, even as the first-century Christians were. (Acts 24:5, 14; 28:22) As noted at the outset, they have been maligned through lying propaganda. Yet, “through glory and dishonor, through bad report and good report,” the anointed brothers of Christ, supported by their “other sheep” companions, have humbly endeavored ‘to observe the commandments of God and do the work of bearing witness to Jesus.’—2 Corinthians 6:8; John 10:16; Revelation 12:17.
11, 12. (a) What may be the cause of some reproach that Christians experience? (b) In what ways might a Christian suffer unjustly on account of his faith?
11 Of course, not all reproach that individual servants of God experience is for “righteousness’ sake.” (Matthew 5:10) Some problems may be the result of our own imperfections. There is no special merit if when we “are sinning and being slapped, [we] endure it.” However, if a Christian “because of conscience toward God, bears up under grievous things and suffers unjustly, this is an agreeable thing” in Jehovah’s sight. (1 Peter 2:19, 20) Under what circumstances might this occur?
12 Some have been treated abusively because they refused to share in unscriptural funeral customs. (Deuteronomy 14:1) Witness youths have been the target of relentless name-calling because of adhering to Jehovah’s moral standards. (1 Peter 4:4) Some Christian parents have been wrongly labeled as “neglectful” or “abusive” because they sought nonblood medical treatment for their children. (Acts 15:29) Christians have been ostracized by relatives and neighbors solely because of becoming servants of Jehovah. (Matthew 10:34-37) All such ones are following the pattern set by the prophets and by Jesus himself in suffering unjustly.—Matthew 5:11, 12; James 5:10; 1 Peter 2:21.
Bearing Up Under Reproach
13. What can help us to maintain our spiritual balance when we face severe reproach?
13 When we come under severe reproach for our faith, we may become discouraged, as did the prophet Jeremiah, and feel that we cannot go on serving God. (Jeremiah 20:7-9) What can help us to maintain our spiritual balance? Seek to view the matter from Jehovah’s standpoint. He views those who remain loyal under test as victors, not as victims. (Romans 8:37) Try to picture in your mind those who have upheld Jehovah’s sovereignty in the face of every indignity that the Devil could hurl against them—such men and women as Abel, Job, Jesus’ mother Mary, and other faithful ones of old, as well as our fellow servants in modern times. (Hebrews 11:35-37; 12:1) Meditate on their course of integrity. That great cloud of loyal ones beckons us to join them on the victory stand reserved for those who by their faith conquer the world.—1 John 5:4.
14. How can fervent prayer strengthen us to remain faithful?
14 If ‘our disquieting thoughts become many inside of us,’ we can turn to Jehovah in fervent prayer, and he will console and strengthen us. (Psalm 50:15; 94:19) He will give us the wisdom we need to cope with the trial and help us to keep in focus the great issue, Jehovah’s sovereignty, that is behind the unjustified hatred brought against his servants. (James 1:5) Jehovah can also grant us “the peace of God that excels all thought.” (Philippians 4:6, 7) This God-given tranquillity enables us to remain calm and resolute in the face of extreme pressure, not yielding to doubt or fear. By means of his spirit, Jehovah can sustain us through whatever he permits to come upon us.—1 Corinthians 10:13.
15. What can help us to avoid becoming bitter when we suffer?
15 What can help us not to become consumed with bitterness toward those who hate us without cause? Remember that our principal adversaries are Satan and the demons. (Ephesians 6:12) While some humans knowingly and deliberately persecute us, many of those who oppose God’s people do so out of ignorance or are manipulated by others. (Daniel 6:4-16; 1 Timothy 1:12, 13) Jehovah desires that “all sorts of men” have the opportunity to “be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4) Indeed, some former opposers are now our Christian brothers as a result of having observed our blameless conduct. (1 Peter 2:12) In addition, we can draw a lesson from the example of Jacob’s son Joseph. Although Joseph suffered greatly on account of his half brothers, he did not harbor animosity toward them. Why not? Because he discerned that Jehovah’s hand was in the matter, maneuvering events in order to fulfill His purpose. (Genesis 45:4-8) Jehovah can likewise cause any unjust suffering we may undergo to work out for the glory of his name.—1 Peter 4:16.
16, 17. Why should we not become anxious over the efforts of opposers to hinder the preaching work?
16 We need not be unduly concerned if for a time opposers seem to be succeeding in hindering the advancement of the good news. Jehovah is now rocking the nations by means of the global witness being given, and the desirable things are coming in. (Haggai 2:7) Christ Jesus, the Fine Shepherd, said: “My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them everlasting life, . . . and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-29) The holy angels are also involved in the great spiritual harvest. (Matthew 13:39, 41; Revelation 14:6, 7) Therefore, nothing that opposers say or do can thwart God’s purpose.—Isaiah 54:17; Acts 5:38, 39.
17 Often, the efforts of opposers backfire. In one African community, many terrible falsehoods had been spread about Jehovah’s Witnesses, including that they were Devil worshipers. Because of this, whenever the Witnesses visited, Grace ran behind her house and hid until they left. One day the pastor of her church held up one of our publications and told all present not to read it because it would cause them to leave their faith. This aroused Grace’s curiosity. The next time the Witnesses called, instead of hiding she engaged them in conversation and received her personal copy of the publication. A Bible study was started, and in 1996 she was baptized. Grace now uses her time to search out others who may have been misinformed about Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Fortify Your Faith Now
18. Why is there a need to strengthen our faith before severe trials arise, and how can we do so?
18 Since Satan can lash out with unjustified hatred at any time, it is vital that we fortify our faith now. How can we do this? A report from a country where Jehovah’s people have been persecuted noted: “One thing has become very evident: Those with good spiritual habits and a deep appreciation of Bible truth have no problem in holding firm when tests arrive. But those who in ‘favorable season’ miss meetings, are irregular in field service, and compromise on small issues often fall when under a ‘fiery’ test.” (2 Timothy 4:2) If you see areas in which you need to make improvement, put forth the effort to do so without delay.—Psalm 119:60.
19. What does the integrity of God’s servants in the face of unjustified hatred accomplish?
19 The integrity of true worshipers under the scourge of satanic hatred is a living testimony to the rightfulness, deservedness, and righteousness of Jehovah’s sovereignty. Their faithfulness makes God’s heart rejoice. Though men may heap reproach on them, the one whose dignity is above earth and heaven “is not ashamed of them, to be called upon as their God.” Indeed, regarding all such loyal ones, it can rightly be said: “The world was not worthy of them.”—Hebrews 11:16, 38.
^ par. 2 In the Scriptures, the word “hate” has several shades of meaning. In some contexts, it simply means to love to a lesser degree. (Deuteronomy 21:15, 16) “Hate” may also signify a strong dislike but without any intent of bringing harm to the object, seeking instead to avoid it because of a feeling of loathing toward it. However, the word “hate” may also denote intense hostility, sustained ill will often accompanied by malice. It is this sense of the word that is discussed in this article.
Can You Explain?
• What is behind unjustified hatred directed at true worshipers?
• How did Satan use reproach in an effort to break the integrity of Job and Jesus?
• How does Jehovah strengthen us to stand firm in the face of satanic hatred?
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They Discerned the Real Issue
One of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Ukraine, where the Kingdom-preaching work was under ban for over 50 years, observed: “The situation in which Jehovah’s Witnesses found themselves should not be evaluated merely in the context of human relations. . . . Most of the officials were merely doing their job. When the government changed, the officials changed loyalties, but we remained the same. We realized that the real source of our troubles had been revealed in the Bible.
“We did not view ourselves simply as the innocent victims of oppressive men. What helped us to endure was a clear understanding of the issue raised in the garden of Eden—the issue of God’s right to rule. . . . We took a stand for an issue linked not only to the personal interests of humans but also to the interests of the Sovereign of the universe. We had a much loftier understanding of the real issues involved. This made us strong and enabled us to keep our integrity even under the most extreme circumstances.”
Victor Popovych, arrested in 1970
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Who was behind the reproach that Jesus was subjected to?
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Job, Mary, and God’s servants in modern times, such as Stanley Jones, have upheld Jehovah’s sovereignty