As the Savior's final days in mortality were coming to a close, He felt it important to prepare His disciples for the rejection and reviling they would experience as they carried forth His work.
17- These things I command you that ye love one another.
18- If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
Honestly setting their expectation would enable them them to continue on loving as He did without taking personal offense.
1-These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.
2-They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh,
that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.
As a Latter-day Saint, I find it remarkable that Christ told His disciples that not only would they be hated of the "world" or the non-believers... but also... by those who felt they were in the service of God.
When I was a young child, my father was a student at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. You may be aware that Provo has a large population of those who share my faith. He graduated when I was 10 and his new career took our family to the suburbs of St. Louis. Among the many cultural adjustments to make for our family, the sparse number of Latter-day Saints and the large number of Christians who viewed our faith unfavorably, was chief. We felt a fellow-discipleship with so many, but quickly realized that our feeling of honor for their religious views was a one way affinity. I remember one night, my parents discussing in amazement an extermination order against the Mormons which had been removed from Missouri's law books less than a decade prior to our arrival.
It was there in St. Peters, Missouri, that I progressed from 5th grade through to my high school graduation. It was an incredible place to grow from a child, in both the physical and spiritual sense, to a young adult. I was blessed to make many... many, friends who were instrumental in helping me grow and develop in my faith. I had a small, strong group of LDS friends and a large, incredible group of friends who did not share my system of belief.
It was a common occurrence to hear a teacher present incorrect information about Mormon beliefs and practices in school. I remember being deeply disturbed by this in a 7th grade history class, but not having the confidence to speak up. I went home and shared this experience with my mom, who then took me back to the school to talk to the teacher. This experience was horrifying and enlightening all at the same time. As I watched my mom's respectful and confident approach in sharing correct information, I began to learn how to stand up for my beliefs.
By the time I reached high school, my teachers and peers would openly ask me questions about my faith as part of classroom discussion. I cannot adequately express the depth of gratitude I feel for the blessed opportunity to grow up in that environment. To this day, I feel such love and fondness for the people of St. Louis and the life lessons I learned there.
Most Latter-day Saints know what it feels like to pass through a crowd of jeering protestors when attending any large church gathering. The signs about Hell, the pamphlets filled with misguided animosity... these are simply part of the turf that comes with membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. The attack on the Christianity of a faith, which proclaims Jesus Christ himself to be the chief cornerstone, continues to perplex me to this day.
A couple of years ago, Todd and I took our children to the Mesa Easter Pageant. This is a beautiful, outdoor play, depicting the life and sacrifice of the Lord, Jesus Christ. I didn't give the protesters who were yelling and holding up their signs a second thought. Todd and I visited with friends, while my children were off playing as we waited for the program to begin. It was a reality check for me when my then 8 year old came up to me, with tears in his eyes, and asked in a quivering voice, why the protesters were saying that we were going to Hell. I grabbed his little hand and said, "Let's go over and see what they are saying."
Together we walked over and read the signs and listened to to hateful things one preacher in particular was yelling. I asked my son,
"Does that seem like something that Jesus would do?"
He responded, "No."
I proceeded to tell him, that part of being a follower of the Savior and carrying His cross means that some people will hate you, and they will say mean things to you...
This is the walk of the Savior.
I asked Him if he thought that God was happy with his decision to be at the pageant that night. He replied, "Yes."
"That is all that matters, Son... That is ALL that matters!"
When others revile us because of our discipleship, we count it an honor to be persecuted for Christ's sake. There is absolutely no need to take personal offense! It is simply an opportunity to grow in Christ-like love. This is the pattern established by Jesus Christ himself! It is the pattern that was boldly carried forward by the likes of Peter and Paul. It is the pattern which continues on through apostles and disciples of these last days. It is the pattern which will continue on until the Savior comes again!