"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." (John 15:18-19)

What does Jesus mean by "world" in this discussion with his closest disciples?

The "world" is being translated from the Greek word κόσμος (kosmos). This word means, according to Thayer's Lexicon, "an apt and harmonious arrangement or constitution, order, government;" "ornament, decoration, adornment;" "the world, the universe" as well as "the inhabitants of the earth, men, the human family;" and "the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God;" and "world affairs, the aggregate of things earthly."

Note also that Jesus is talking about hate. Does the planet earth hate Jesus and his disciples? No.

In other words, Jesus is referring to the inhabitants of the physical world. He is referring to people of a particular consciousness - people who are focused upon the trappings of this world.

Why would the people of this world reject Jesus and his disciples? Because Jesus is teaching something that is opposed to the consciousness of the people of this world.

The consciousness of the people of this world is the consciousness of materialism. The concept that we are these physical bodies, and the things that feed the physical body, clothe the physical body or otherwise surround the physical body will make us happy.

This is why Jesus says, "you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world."

What does Jesus mean by "I have chosen you out of the world."

The word "chosen" is being translated from the Greek word ἐκλέγομαι (eklegomai), which means being selected by virtue of fitness. Jesus is saying that he chose his disciples, not randomly, but because they illustrated that they were committed to following his teachings.

But how does that take them out of the world so they do not "belong to the world"?

Because Jesus' teachings are spiritual. They are outside the realm of the material world and the physical body. They do not "belong" to the consciousness of materialism and self-centeredness.

But those of us who do "belong to the world" are wrapped up in the trappings of this world, including wealth, position, fame, acceptance by others and sensual pleasures. We are focused upon material goodies - represented at Christmastime as worshiping a rich fat man in a red suit and a tree surrounded by material things wrapped up to keep others tempted while partying and gorging. Do we realize that we are participating in the very activities that Jesus opposed as we supposedly celebrate his appearance? Even the tree was rejected by early Christians because it was part of a pagan ritual.

Jesus is teaching that we belong in another world - the spiritual world. We are not these physical bodies. We are spiritual beings, and each of us has a loving care-giving relationship with the Supreme Being. We each have a unique servitude relationship with God, but we have forgotten that relationship.

We have forgotten that relationship because we became self-centered. This is the meaning of the parable of Adam eating the fruit. The fruit, remember, was from the "tree of knowledge of good and evil," and if the Hebrew is translated correctly, should be the "knowledge of pleasure and pain." (See this commentary for the translation.)

Why is knowing pleasure and pain such a big deal? Because "knowing" these require becoming self-centered. When a person is focused upon themselves, they are focused upon their own pleasures and their own pains.

This consciousness is the opposite of love. Self-centeredness is diametrically opposed to love. In the spiritual world, everyone is loving the Supreme Being and His associates. They are focused upon God's pleasure. When a person is focused upon God's pleasure, they are not focused upon their own pleasure - they are not self-centered.

Once we chose self-centeredness over loving service to God we fell out of the spiritual realm and became covered by these physical bodies. Due to our desires for self-enjoyment, we are now in the illusion that we are these physical bodies, and that the things of this physical world will make us happy.

But we can see that even those who have the most of the things of this world - wealth, fame, attention, acceptance - are not satisfied. Those things do not fulfill us.

We need spiritual food. Spiritual happiness. This is the only thing that will make us truly fulfilled.

And this is what Jesus was teaching. He was teaching that in order to become fulfilled we needed to change our consciousness from being centered around what will make me happy to centered around what will make God happy. If we are focused on pleasing Him, our entire consciousness changes. We might still be surrounded by material things - but we will not see them the same. We will see them as God's stuff, not stuff for our enjoyment. We will only see them as things to possibly employ in pleasing the Supreme Being.

This is confirmed by Jesus' most important instruction:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)


(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Gospel of John without sectarian institutional influence, see the Devotional Translation  - translated from the original Greek texts.)