The Courage to Be Disliked
Obeying God isn't always popular. The result—standing out and being disliked by others—can be hard. How can we have the courage to be disliked?
God says through the apostle Paul that Christians should strive to “live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). Packaged within that instruction is an expectation for Christians to be pleasant, gentle and loving.
But a Christian’s efforts to do that will not always be recognized by others. The Bible foretells a time when anti-Christian persecution will commence on a massive scale.
Then, those who are truly serving God will need the courage to be disliked.
Notice a chilling prophecy Jesus gave His disciples: “Then they [persecutors] will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9).
He didn’t say “you might be hated,” but “you will be hated.”
It’s going to be a predicament reminiscent of what many encountered in the first century: “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him [Jesus Christ], but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-43).
As sad as it was for many of the spiritual leaders to capitulate to the mob 2,000 years ago, the fact is, having an overwhelming desire to be liked is always something to be wary of, especially as we approach the end of the age.
“But how can I have the courage to be disliked?” someone may curiously ask.
For starters, reflecting on the lives and examples of servants of God can be helpful and inspiring. So, this blog post will take a brief look at two courageous biblical characters and then conclude by answering where that courage comes from and how you can have it.
Jeremiah had the courage to be disliked
Most of Jeremiah’s tenure as a prophet of God was during a turbulent time in Judah’s history.
When Jeremiah began prophesying, Josiah, the nation’s last righteous king, sat on the throne and ushered in a time of national peace and economic prosperity through various spiritual reforms.
But after Josiah died, a succession of wicked and morally corrupt monarchs took over, providing a lot of subject material for Jeremiah’s prophecies.
Jeremiah's mission required the courage to be disliked when necessary. That he completed his mission is evidence that he had courage—even though it was very difficult for him at times.Collectively, these kings plunged the nation into paganism and idolatry and set the stage for God’s wrath and judgment on Judah.
What was the message God asked Jeremiah to give the people during this time? The same straightforward message of every biblical prophet, apostle and evangelist: repent and turn to God or you will be punished.
And, not unlike the way people receive God’s message in today’s world, the people’s stubbornness and hard-heartedness made them view Jeremiah’s message with disdain.
His fellow Jews (including his family) began to despise and persecute him.
Notice how he bemoaned his situation: “O LORD, You induced me, and I was persuaded; You are stronger than I, and have prevailed. I am in derision daily; everyone mocks me” (Jeremiah 20:7).
Their hatred of Jeremiah didn’t stop with just a few insults and mean comments. It included actual plots to have him murdered.
Jeremiah cried out, “All my acquaintances watched for my stumbling, saying, ‘Perhaps he can be induced; then we will prevail against him, and we will take our revenge on him’” (verse 10).
The list of what he experienced during his ministry could go on and on. The point is, Jeremiah was no stranger to feeling disliked, even hated, by the people around him.
Did this kind of treatment come as a complete surprise to him? No! He expected as much because God had told him beforehand.
“Speak to them all that I command you,” God told Jeremiah. “Do not be dismayed before their faces, lest I dismay you before them. For behold, I have made you this day a fortified city and an iron pillar . . . They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you” (Jeremiah 1:17-19).
His mission required the courage to be disliked when necessary. That he completed his mission is evidence that he had courage—even though it was very difficult for him at times.
David had the courage to be disliked
King David was also the victim of intense dislike and hatred.
Of course, slaying Goliath earned David incredible popularity. His battle feats made him the talk of the town, and he was loved and praised by many. There was even a throng of dancers who sang of how David had slain “his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7).
But he still had his fair share of enemies.
For example, Saul, David’s predecessor, tried to kill him at least eight times.
Real servants of God often face the challenge of not being accepted or liked by others.On another occasion years later, David was run out of town by his own son and pelted with rocks (2 Samuel 16:5-8)!
The point here is that real servants of God often face the challenge of not being accepted or liked by others.
David wrote several heartfelt psalms that addressed this very thing.
Notice Psalm 35:15-16: “Attackers gathered against me, and I did not know it; they tore at me and did not cease; with ungodly mockers at feasts they gnashed at me with their teeth.”
And again, he pleaded with God, “Consider my enemies, for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred” (Psalm 25:19).
Since both Jeremiah and David felt the hurt of being disliked by others, how did they get the courage to move forward?
Where does the courage to be disliked come from?
How can you have it when you need it?
Courage comes from faith in God
The courage to be disliked—to be obedient to God even when your popularity tanks—comes from your faith and trust in God.
David and Jeremiah didn’t beat themselves up for not being tough enough to be unaffected by public opinion. In their persecution, they prayed and turned to God for the strength and courage they needed.
Yes, Jeremiah had his bouts with depression and loneliness. But every now and then, he’d make a ringing declaration of faith. See how his pleading prayer morphed into a powerful confession of his confidence in God:
“But the LORD is with me as a mighty, awesome One,” he shouted. “Therefore my persecutors will stumble, and will not prevail. They will be greatly ashamed, for they will not prosper” (Jeremiah 20:11).
Now, did he only then discover how trust in God would provide him with the courage he needed, or was it a connection he had made before?
Jeremiah said, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).
“Will not fear” is the same as “will have courage.” The promise is that those who place their trust in God are not going to be utterly shaken when the going gets tough and they become hated in the eyes of the crowd.
King David knew this as well. He cried out, “Keep my soul, and deliver me; let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You” (Psalm 25:20).
He also wrote this comforting scripture: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19).
These scriptures indicate that both Jeremiah and David found the courage to be disliked by putting their trust in God.
To learn more about how to build trust in God, read “What Is Faith?”
How about us?
Paul wrote that many of the things recorded in the Bible were written as “examples” for us, “upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).
Jeremiah and David (and other servants of God, for that matter) teach us that courage to stand against public opinion stems from our faith in God.
And as the last days come upon humanity, that courage is going to be vital because true Christians will increasingly become targets for hostility and mockery.
Maybe those future (or present) circumstances won’t exactly mirror the experiences of David and Jeremiah, but being disliked by others will undoubtedly be a point of similarity.
Fortunately, Jesus Christ gives this encouraging promise: “But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13).
And again, He assures us, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12).
No matter how harshly a Christian may get treated, it pales in comparison to the reward that Christ will bring with Him on the day of His return. As we approach these times, we need a clear and bright vision of the future God is preparing in His coming Kingdom.
Have the courage to be disliked.
To learn more about the persecution true Christians will face in the end times, read “You Will Be Hated.”