Haters Gonna Hate Giving answers to our detractors

Haters were a major part of Jesus’ life.  How did he deal with them?  Did he focus on them?  Did he ignore them?  Did he let the haters get in the way of what he was doing?  Or did he try to appease them by softening his message?

Let’s find out!

Jesus and Some Haters

Since Jesus had a knack for valuing people over rules created by people, he healed a man on the Sabbath in John 5.  This caused the haters to come out of the woodwork!

Jesus told the man he healed to pick up his mat and walk.  When the man did, some Jewish leaders, probably a few vocal Pharisees, told him that carrying one’s mat was considered work and that he shouldn’t do that on the Sabbath.  The healed man told them that he was doing as he was told by the man who healed him.

After a little while Jesus saw the man again at the Temple and checked in on him.  After he did so the healed man went right over to tell the Jewish leaders (AKA the haters), who it was that healed him.

This caused the haters to go into action again.  It appears that they were angry that Jesus was healing on the Sabbath, which they must have considered a “work.”

Jesus’ response infuriated them even further.  He said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5.17).  They were really mad that Jesus was healing on the Sabbath and that he called God his Father, which they interpreted as claiming equality with God.  So they decided all the more that they would try to kill Jesus.  These haters really overreacted to Jesus’ statement BIG TIME!

So how did Jesus respond?  Did he run away with his tail between his legs?  Did he promise never to do the things that angered them again?  Did he try to put the blame on someone else, like Peter, John, or even Judas?

Nope.  He did none of those things.

Jesus’ Response to the Haters

So what did Jesus do?

From John 5.19-47 Jesus give a long speech.  Here are some highlights from just the beginning of the speech:

  • Jesus said that he sees what God is doing and does likewise (vv. 19-20)
  • Jesus claims that he can give life like the Father does (v. 21)
  • Jesus says that the Father has given the Son all judgment (v. 22)
  • Jesus says that whoever honors him honors the Father and whoever dishonors him dishonors the Father (v.23)
  • Jesus says that whoever hears his word and believes in him will have eternal life (v. 24)
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Jesus’ response to the haters was strong, bold, and direct.  He didn’t soften any language.  He didn’t try any avoidance tactics.  And he didn’t run away.

In fact, a really strong case could be made that Jesus used the hatred of his enemies as an opportunity to teach his disciples and ultimately to bring his Father glory.  In other words, these haters didn’t derail Jesus from the mission he was on — a mission to make disciples and honor his Father.

When Haters Attack!

But what are we to do when we face haters?  None of us is Jesus.  None of us has the kind of confidence that he did.  None of us has the same kind of fortitude that he possessed.

Well, we can learn a thing or two from Jesus here.

  1. Face Haters with Friends — Jesus wasn’t alone here.  We can assume that he was with his disciples.  I think so often when we face opposition of any sort we’re tempted to do so alone.  We must think that this makes us look tougher, more perfect, or something.  But Jesus faced all of his trials with people who loved him around.  Jesus even had community surrounding him as he died on the cross!  So when we face haters, let’s not do so alone.  Let’s lean on our community to help us, to give us strength, and to encourage us.
  2. Stick to the Truth — When Jesus faced his opponents here he didn’t create lies about them to make himself look better.  And he didn’t embellish his own story either.  Instead he simply told the truth about himself and his relationship to his Father.  When we face haters we may be tempted to trump ourselves up or beat them down, even twisting the truth to do so.  Instead, let’s just focus on what’s true: we’re God’s children, saved by grace, set free to serve the King.
  3. Don’t Be Deterred — It would have been really easy for Jesus to get sidetracked by his opponents.  They were plotting to kill him after all!  But he didn’t.  In fact, he used their rude interjection into his life as a way to further his mission of making disciples and honoring the Father.  So when we face opposition, persecution, and the like, how can we allow God to use it to further his mission in the world?  We can start by praying that God be with us in these difficult moments through his Spirit.  And in so doing we will demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, which will always help us stay on mission with Jesus and bring God glory!

 

What do you think?  How should we respond to haters?  Let me know in the comments below!

People > Rules Jesus always chooses people over rules

“Rules were made to be broken.”

While this old adage is said a lot, it’s definitely not true!

It seems to me that in most cases rules are meant to protect us in one form or another.  And sometimes they are made to ensure that we follow best practices.

But almost without a single doubt, rules were not made to be broken.

However, are there times when they should be broken?  Are there cases in which the rule, which was intended to protect or direct toward best practices, isn’t the best option?

Well, in John 5 we see Jesus choosing something above following a rule.

Rules and Jesus

First things first, Jesus wasn’t against all rules.  In fact, when Jesus was asked what the best ones were, he didn’t say “There are no rules, just love people.”  Nope.  Instead he said, “Here is the best rule: Love God, and the second one is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22.36-40).  Then after he had died and been raised again, Jesus gave his followers a rule.  He told them that as they were going about that they must make disciples (I phrased this sentence this way so that the fact that the command in Greek is not “go” but “make disciples”) (Matthew 28.19-20).

So Jesus didn’t dislike rules.  But he clearly understood that too many rules muddied things up.  If there are a thousand things we are supposed to be doing or not doing, then we may spend all of our time thinking about those “dos and don’ts” instead of living the lives that God set out for us.  And Jesus consistently encountered people who did this — the Pharisees.

Rules and the Pharisees

The Pharisees were not all bad guys, despite how we tend to think of them.  There’s Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.  And Gamiliel seems like a good guy too.  And Paul, who was a Pharisee, would eventually come around too.

But even the “bad” Pharisees weren’t setting out to be bad.  They were focused on performing the works of the law in order to worship God well.  They weren’t trying to be bad guys and they weren’t hoping to be exclusive and dogmatic.  Instead they were doing the best they could with the tradition in which they lived.

So in John 5 when Jesus encounters some uber-rule-loving Pharisees (called “Jewish leaders there), it’s easy to paint them in the worst possible light.  But that’s not fair.  Their insistence on not working on the Sabbath has biblical and cultural roots.  They weren’t pulling this rule out of thin air to attack Jesus.

However, they’re focus was wrong.

Rules Can Distract Our Focus

In the first part of John 5 Jesus heals a man who had been suffering for decades.  It just so happens that this healing happened on the Sabbath (John 5.9b).  When some of the Jewish leaders saw that this man was healed and was carrying his mat (which is considered work), they pounced!  Their rule-breaker lights went off and they went into action.

They first told this man that he shouldn’t be carrying his mat on the Sabbath.  The man says that the person who healed him told him to do so.  The Jewish leaders insisted on knowing who the healer was but the healed man didn’t know.  (He would eventually find out and tell the Jewish leaders, who then got super angry at Jesus!)

But here’s the point: The Jewish leaders’ focus on the rules didn’t allow them to see what was right in front of their faces.  They totally missed the fact that this man was healed!  Their focus was so narrowly aimed at the Sabbath rules, that they entirely missed an opportunity to praise God that he had healed this man!

 

This makes me wonder about what sorts of rules prevent us from seeing God do his thing in our day.  What are we focused on so much so that we miss out on what Jesus is doing through his Spirit?  Let me know what you think in the comments below.

 

But here’s the big idea from this post: Jesus put the man who needed healing above rules — in fact, Jesus almost always put people before rules.  Therefore, as we seek to follow Jesus in the real world, we too should put people and their well-being above rules, especially those rules that are not the focus of Jesus himself.

 

What do you think?  Are people always greater than rules?  What rules do we tend to focus on more than people?  And is doing it the way Jesus did it even possible or practical for us today?  Let me know in the comments below!