Jesus is hard to love.
Perhaps that is shocking to some. Many people believe they love Jesus. How hard can it be to love Jesus? He is perfect and he loves us perfectly. He is our creator and desires to be our savior. Yet I tell you in truth, Jesus is hard to love.
Jesus does not just want to be admired or adored. He is not satisfied being one of your many passions. Nor is he content to be your convenient friend.
Jesus is exclusive and all-consuming. And that is why he is hard to love.
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24).
Many people are proud to be free. Yet the Bible teaches us that we are slaves. Paul asked the Romans, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one to whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16).
Here there is no middle ground. We can choose our master but we cannot choose to have no master. We either serve righteousness or sin, light or darkness, God or self.
Jesus made manifest the judgment of God when he appeared to the world as the light of men, “and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19).
One might say, “Surely I don’t love darkness!” The Holy Spirit says, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
Now this is truly soul-searching time. Are we friends with the world? If so, we have put ourselves at odds with God.
In arguing for the purity and exclusivity of the gospel he preached, Paul drew an interesting conclusion: “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).
Many are the people-pleasers, few are the God-servers (1 Thessalonians 2:4).
Some Christians have one foot in the kingdoms of men and one foot in kingdom of God. But Jesus’ words have already shown that is an untenable position. One cannot serve both (see 1 John 2:15-16).
The world is not just ambivalent toward Jesus, it hates him. As Jesus was preparing his disciples for the cross, he assured them, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). The choice of loving the darkness, rather than the light (John 3:19), has the practical result of choosing to hate Jesus.
Since Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Hebrews 1:3), he shares the very nature of God. Therefore, if one hates God the Son, they also hate God the Father (John 15:23).
It seems more reasonable to hate someone who has wronged you (though Jesus commands you not to do so). It is another matter entirely to hate one who has done nothing but good for you. That is why Jesus, quoting the Psalmist, says, “They hated me without a cause” (John 15:25).
Your heart surely does not burn with hatred toward Jesus. But if you do not love him with your whole being, if you are not dedicated to walking the path he has trodden, if you are not committed to being conformed to his image, and if you are not zealous to keep his commandments (John 14:15; 1 John 5:3), then the practical result is the same. You are not just in the world, you are the world, and the world hates Jesus.
“Therefore “come out from their midst, and be separate,” says the Lord, “and touch no unclean thing, and I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the All-Powerful Lord” (2 Corinthians 6:17, 18 NET).