Some Thoughts on Evangelism and Being “Hated by All”

There will be opposition to the “full” Catholic teaching. If there isn’t, we need to examine ourselves very closely...

El Greco, “Christ Carrying the Cross,” 1580s
El Greco, “Christ Carrying the Cross,” 1580s (photo: Public Domain)

In the effort to be heard and to be liked by radically secularist leftists and atheists, and anyone else who is fundamentally opposed to Christianity, too often we go too far in seeking to be relevant and appreciated. It’s impossible to speak the fully explained and defended fullness of Catholic truth (even in the most saintly, sweet fashion) and to be widely liked at the same time by those who fundamentally disagree with us.

It’s an instance where we will have to be willing to be “hated” for Jesus’ sake, as our Lord told us. If everyone loves us to death (I’m talking generally here), we better examine ourselves for traces of compromise.

Jesus was mocked, lied about, betrayed, told that He was possessed by a demon and was a blasphemer, and of course, subjected to a kangaroo court, tortured and murdered. Yet we expect something totally different (to be rapturously loved by one and all). We should not! He plainly told us that.

If vehement non-Christians love us to pieces, I have to suspect that there is a problem somewhere. They just don’t like us that much (five minutes spent in virtually any atheist or leftist internet combox will prove that), so if they do, it’s very likely that we are watering-down something, compromising somewhere in a way that appeals to them, so they will think we are one of the “few” intelligent, tolerant Christians, etc.

We must all resist this temptation to be popular and loved by all. It’s very human and understandable to want to be liked and understood and appreciated (we all have that legitimate need), but the person defending Catholic Christian teaching in all its particulars can’t have both things at once. We have to pay a price at a certain point, just as Jesus, the apostles, and all the martyrs of history did.

We will certainly encounter some who disagree with our Catholic message, yet don't personally dislike us, because we acted with love, listened to them, showed sympathy or empathy for their concerns, proclaimed our message gently and with the utmost respect and consideration, and with prudence, at the right time, etc. My point, however, is that a unanimous or overwhelming approval highly suggests that something almost certainly is out of balance.

We must always take into account that Jesus (again, speaking very broadly, but intensely) said we would be “hated” by the world, not loved by it. That was certainly how the world treated our Lord, and we follow Him and proclaim His message. Here’s what He said, backed up by St. Paul and St. John:

Matthew 10:22-25 (RSV) and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. [23] When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of man comes. [24] A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master; [25] it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Be-el’zebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. (cf. 10:32-26; 5:10-12; Mk 13:13; Lk 21:17)

Luke 6:22-23 Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! [23] Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

John 15:18-21 If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. [19] If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. [20] Remember the word that I said to you, `A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. [21] But all this they will do to you on my account, because they do not know him who sent me.

John 17:14 . . . the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

2 Timothy 3:12 Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

1 John 3:13 Do not wonder, brethren, that the world hates you.

Now, of course there are many times when we act like jerks and fall short in a hundred different ways, in evangelizing or as a model (by God’s grace) of the Christian life of discipleship, and therefore, people despise us or hate us. I’m not talking about that. It’s a given and understood.

I’m saying that if we are as loving and considerate and respectful as can be, and proclaim the full Catholic message, including all of its most “controversial” and counter-cultural, non-trendy, non-fashionable aspects (often, of course, having to do with sexuality, where we most differ with the world-system), we can’t possibly be massively loved and admired and respected by those who fundamentally differ from us.

We can’t square a universal glowing reception with the above passages. Jesus was perfectly holy. We know that He wasn’t hated because He sinned or was a rotten hypocrite (the world’s favorite thing to call us: too often, sadly, justified). He was hated because of His message. And we will be, too, if we proclaim it. Our Lord clearly said so.

There will be opposition to the “full” Catholic teaching. If there isn’t, we need to examine ourselves very closely and thoroughly to determine whether the accolades of men are more important to us than sharing Jesus’ gospel and the Catholic message, at whatever cost.