They Still Speak

The World’s Hatred, 

As Christ Saw It

by 

Alexander MacLaren

(1826-1910)

  But all these things will they do unto you for My name’s sake, because they
know not Him that sent Me. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had
not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin. He that hateth Me, hateth
My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none ether man
did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both Me and
My Father. But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is
written in their law, They hated Me without a cause’ — John 15:21-25

Our Lord has been speaking of the world’s hostility to His followers, and
tracing that to its hostility to Himself. In these solemn words of our text He
goes still deeper, and parallels the relation which His disciples bear to Him
and the consequent hostility that falls on them, with the relation which He
bears to the Father and the consequent hostility that falls on Him: ‘They
hate you because they hate Me.’ And then His words become sadder and
pierce deeper, and with a tone of wounded love and disappointed effort
and almost surprise at the world’s requital to Him, He goes on to say,
‘They hate Me, because they hate the Father.’

So, then, here we have, in very pathetic and solemn words, Christ’s view
of the relation of the world to Him and to God.

I. The first point that He signalises is the world’s ignorance.

‘These things they will do unto you,’ and they will do them ‘for My name’s
sake’; they will do them ‘ because they know not Him that sent Me.’
‘The world,’ in Christ’s language, is the aggregate of godless men. Or, to
put it a little more sharply, our Lord, in this context, gives in His full
adhesion to that narrow view which divides those who have come under
the influence of His truth into two portions. There is no mincing of the
matter in the antithesis which Christ here draws; no hesitation, as if there
were a great central mass, too bad for a blessing perhaps, but too good for
a curse; which was neither black nor white, but neutral grey. No! however
it may be with the masses beyond the reach of the dividing and revealing
power of His truth, the men that come into contact with Him, like a heap
of metal filings brought into contact with a magnet, mass themselves into
two bunches, the one those who yield to the attraction, and the other those
who do not. The one is ‘My disciples,’ and the other is ‘the world.’ And
now, says Jesus Christ, all that mass that stands apart from Him, and,?611
having looked upon Him with the superficial eye of those men round about
Him at that day, or of the men who hear of Him now, have no real love to
Him — have, as the underlying motive of their conduct and their feelings, a
real ignorance of God. ‘They know not Him that sent Me.’

Our Lord assumes that He is so completely the Copy and Revealer of the
divine nature as that any man that looks upon Him has had the opportunity
of becoming acquainted with God, and that any man who turns away from
Him has lost that opportunity. The God that the men who do not love
Jesus Christ believe in, is not the Father that sent Him. It is a fragment, a
distorted image tinted by the lens. The world has its conception of God;
but outside of Jesus Christ and His manifestation of the whole divine
nature, the world’s God is but a syllable, a fragment, a broken part of the
perfect completeness. ‘The Father of an infinite majesty,’ and of as infinite
a tenderness, the stooping God, the pitying God, the forgiving God, the
loving God is known only where Christ is accepted. In other hearts He may
be dimly hoped for, in other hearts He may be half believed in, in other
hearts He may be thought possible; but hopes and anticipations and fears
and doubts are not knowledge, and they who see not the light in Christ see
but the darkness. Out of Him God is not known, and they that turn away
from His beneficent manifestation turn their faces to the black north, from
which no sun can shine. Brother, do you know God in Christ? Unless you
do, you do not know the God who is.

But there is a deeper meaning in that word than simply the possession of
true thoughts concerning the divine nature. We know God as we know one
another; because God is a Person, as we are persons, and the only way to
know persons is through familiar acquaintance and sympathy. So the world
which turns away from Christ has no acquaintance with God.
This is a surface fact. Our Lord goes on to show what lies below it.

II. His second thought here is — the world’s ignorance in the face of
Christ’s light is worse than ignorance; it is sin.

Mark how He speaks: ‘If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had
not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin.’ And then again: ‘If I
had not done amongst them the works which none other men did, they had
not had sin.’ So then He puts before us two forms of His manifestation of
the divine nature, by His words and His works. Of these two He puts His
words foremost, as being a deeper and more precious and brilliant?612
revelation of what God is than are His miracles. The latter are subordinate,
they come as a second source of illumination. Men who will not see the
beauty and listen to the truth that lie in His word may perchance be led by
His deed. But the word towers in its nature high above the work, and the
miracle to the word is but like the picture in the child’s book to the text, fit
for feeble eyes and infantile judgments, but containing far less of the
revelation of God than the sacred words which He speaks. First the words,
next the miracles.

But notice, too, how decisively, and yet simply and humbly and
sorrowfully, our Lord here makes a claim which, on the lips of any but
Himself, would have been mere madness of presumption. Think of any of
us saying that our words made all the difference between innocent
ignorance and criminality! Think of any of us saying that to listen to us, and
not be persuaded, was the sin of sins! Think of any of us pointing to our
actions and saying, In these God is so manifest that not to see Him augurs
wickedness, and is condetonation! And yet Jesus Christ says all this. And,
what is more wonderful, nobody wonders that He says it, and the world
believes that He is saying the truth when He says it.

How does that come? There is only one answer; only one. His words were
the illuminating manifestation of God, and His deeds were the plain and
unambiguous operation of the divine hand then and there, only because He
Himself was divine, and in Him ‘God was manifested in the flesh.’
But passing from that, notice how our Lord hers declares that in
comparison with the sin of not listening to His words, and being taught by
His manifestation, all other sins dwindle into nothing. ‘If I had not spoken,
they had not had sin.’ That does not mean, of course, that these men would
have been clear of all moral delinquency; it does not mean that there would
not have been amongst them crimes against their own consciences, crimes
against the law written on their own hearts, crimes against the law of
revelation. There were liars, impure men, selfish men, and men committing
all the ordinary forms of human transgression amongst them. And yet, says
Christ, black and bespattered as these natures are, they are white in
comparison with the blackness of the man who, looking into His face, sees
nothing there that he should desire. Beside the mountain belching out its
sulphurous flame the little pimple of a molehill is nought. And so, says
Christ, heaven heads the count of sirra with this — unbelief.

Ah, brother, as light grows responsibility grows, and this is the misery of
all illumination that comes through Jesus Christ, that where it does not
draw a man into His sweet love, and fill him with the knowledge of God
which is eternal life, it darkens his nature and aggravates his condemnation,
and lays a heavier burden upon his soul. The truth that the measure of light
is the measure of guilt has many aspects. It turns a face of alleviation to the
dark places’ of the earth; but just in the measure that it lightens the
condemnation of the heathen, it adds weight to the condemnation of you
men and women who are bathed in the light of Christianity, and all your
days have had it streaming in upon you. The measure of the guilt is the
brightness of the light. No shadows are so black as those which the intense
sunshine of the tropics casts. And you and I live in the very tropical regions
of divine revelation, and ‘if we turn away from Him that spoke on earth
and speaketh from heaven, of how much sorer punishment, think you, shall
we be thought worthy’ than those who live away out in the glimmering
twilight of an unevangelised paganism, or who stood by the side of Jesus
Christ when they had only His earthly life to teach them?

III. The ignorance which is sin is the manifestation of hatred.

Our Lord has sorrowfully contemplated the not knowing God, which in the
blaze of His light can only come from wilful closing of the eyes, and is
therefore the very sin of sins. But that, sad as it is, is not all which has to he
said about that blindness of unbelief in Him. It indicates a rooted alienation
of heart and mind and will from God, and is, in fact, the manifestation of an
unconscious but real hatred. It is an awful saying, and one which the lips ‘
into which grace was poured’ could not pronounce without a sigh. But it is
our wisdom to listen to what it was His mercy to say.

Observe our Lord’s identification of Himself with the Father, so as that the
feelings with which men regard Him are, ipso facto, the feelings with which
they regard the Father God. ‘He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.’
‘He that hath loved Me hath loved the Father.’ ‘He that hath hated He hath
hated the Father.’ An ugly word — a word that a great many of us think
far too severe and harsh to be applied to men who simply are indifferent to
the divine love. Some say, ‘I am conscious of no hatred. I do not pretend
to be a Christian, but I do not hate God. Take the ordinary run of people
round about us in the world; if you say God is not in all their thoughts, I
agree with you; but if you say that they hate God, I do not believe it.’?614
Well, what do you think the fact that men go through their days and weeks
and months and years, and have not God in all their thoughts, indicates as
to the central feeling of their hearts towards God? Granted that there is not
actual antagonism, because there is no thought at all, do you think it would
be possible for a man who loved God to go on for a twelvemonth and
never think of, or care to please, or desire to be near, the object that he
loved? And inasmuch as, deep down at the bottom of our moral being,
there is no such thing possible as indifference and a perfect equipoise in
reference to God, it is clear enough, I think, that — although the word
must not be pressed as if it meant conscious and active antagonism, —
where there is no love there is hate.

If a man does not love God as He is revealed to him in Jesus Christ, he
neither cares to please Him nor to think about Him, nor does he order his
life in obedience to His commands. And if it be true that obedience is the
very life-breath of love, disobedience or non-obedience is the manifestation
of antagonism, and antagonism towards God is the same thing as hate.
Dear friends, I want some of my hearers to-day who have never honestly
asked themselves the question of what their relation to God is, to go down
into the deep places of their hearts and test themselves by this simple
inquiry: ‘Do I do anything to please Him? Do I try to serve Him? Is it a joy
to me to be near Him? Is the thought of Him a delight, like a fountain in
the desert or the cool shadow of a great rock in the blazing wilderness? Do
I turn to Him as my Home, my Friend, my All? If I do not, am I not
deceiving myself by fancying that I stand neutral?’ There is no neutrality in
a man’s relation to God. It is one thing or other. ‘Ye cannot serve God and
Mammon.’ ‘The friendship of the world is enmity against God.’
IV. And now, lastly, note how our Lord here touches the deep thought
that this ignorance, which is sin, and is more properly named hatred, is
utterly irrational and causeless.

‘All this will they do that it might be fulfilled which is written in their law,
They hated Me without a cause.’ One hears sighing through these words
the Master’s meek wonder that His love should be so met, and that the
requital which He receives at men’s hands, for such an unexampled and
lavish outpouring of it, should be such a carelessness, reposing upon a
hidden basis of such a rooted alienation.?

‘Without a cause’; yes! that suggests the deep thought that the most
mysterious and irrational thing in men’s whole history and experience is the
way in which they recompense God in Christ for what He has done for
them. ‘Be astonished, O ye heavens! and wonder, O ye earth!’ said one of
the old prophets; the mystery of mysteries, which can give no account of
itself to satisfy reason, which has no apology, excuse, or vindication, is just
that when God loves me I do not love Him back again; and that when
Christ pours out the whole fullness of His heart upon me, my dull and
obstinate heart gives back so little to Him who has given me so much.
‘Without a cause.’ Think of that Cross; think, as every poor creature on
earth has a right to think, that he and she individually were in the mind and
heart of the Saviour when He suffered and died, and then think of what we
have brought Him for it. De we not stand ashamed at — if I might use so
trivial a word, — the absurdity as well as at the criminality of our requital?
Causeless love on the one side, occasioned by . nothing but itself, and
causeless indifference on the other, occasioned by nothing but itself, are the
two powers that meet in this mystery — men’s rejection of the infinite love
of God.

My friend, come away from the unreasonable people, come away from the
men who can give no account of their attitude. Come away from those
who pay benefits by carelessness, and a Love that died by an indifference
that will not cast an eye upon that miracle of mercy, and let His love kindle
the answering flame in your hearts. Then you will know God as only they
who love Christ know Him, and in the sweetness of a mutual bond will lose
the misery of self, and escape the deepening condemnation of those who
see Christ on the Cross and do not care for the sight, nor learn by it to
know the infinite tenderness and holiness of the Father that sent Him.

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