"It is to fulfill the word that is written in their law, 'They hated me without a cause.'" (Jn 15.25)
I don't hear Christians talk too often about being hated in society. They're so much in the majority in our society that it's usually pretty confortable for Christians; actually, I more often hear of people complaining about being hated by Christians.
But Jesus often warned his small band of followers that they would be hated by the wider society. He even blessed them in it:
"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! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets." (Lk 6.22-23)This is not mentioned often, but there are times when Christians do turn to these words of Jesus. Like when Christian colonizers were hated and attacked by native peoples. Situations like that, though, raise the question: Were those Christians hated (as Jesus was) "without a cause"? Were they hated simply for their beliefs, as some claim? And now, do many in the Middle East hate Christians "without a cause"? Or do they hate Christians for stealing their land and resources and killing their family members, some very reasonable causes for hating?
I've heard a little more from left-leaning Christians about Jesus being hated and about how we should expect the same. But they often seem to give clear reasons for that hatred and even practical ways to provoke it now. It's explained that Jesus was hated and killed because he challenged those in political power and threatened the economic structures of his time. It's simple. If we also threaten the political and economic powers, we'll be hated and crucified as well. Many have shown this to be true (and many others have tried hard and been mostly ignored), but I think this Christian activism raises the same question as the Christian colonization did. Do they really hate you "without a cause" like Jesus? Or do they hate you for threatening their income or destroying their property or attempting to grasp political power, just like they hate all their other political opponents? Pretty reasonable and common causes for hating.
I know of one place where Jesus stated simply why society hated him. He was speaking to family members who seemed to be goading him to appear publicly in Jerusalem. Jesus said, "The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify of it that its works are evil." (Jn 7.7)
That's all. Not because he was taking their land or their political or economic power. But because he was simply telling them the truth, telling them that their works were evil. Jesus wasn't threatening them in any way. Speaking from a position of vulnerability, his words were more dangerous to him than to them. They had no good reason to hate or attack him. Truly they hated him without a cause.
That's not an easy thing to emulate. We usually give people pretty good reasons for hating us, and then it does no good to claim to be following Jesus' example. But if we care for others in a way that poses no threat to them, if we are not like their political opponents or economic competitors, but humble servants in the world, and if then our speaking against evil, not from a position of power but from weakness, brings anger and opposition against us, then maybe we're starting to get closer to Jesus' being "hated without a cause." And that's worth something. Because it means we're getting closer to Jesus.