There are plenty of debatable issues among Christians. Valid topics on which reasonable believers disagree. The life of a Jesus-follower is marked by freedom from judgment and condemnation because of the work of Jesus on the cross, so we should give one another a wide berth.
There’s one subject, however, on which the Bible is clear: the Jesus-follower’s relationship with hate.
Hatred can find no quarter in the body of Christ and we must be relentless on this front. The Bible warns that there will come a time when the love of many will grow cold and that people will fall away, betray, and hate one another. (Matthew 24:10-13) Jesus is describing a time of spiritual and interpersonal ugliness that permeates even the visible church. Anyone who’s had a taste of it already cringes at the recollection.
Because of this, we need to get comfortable discussing a certain truth. There is a visible church – groups and individuals who publicly identify with Jesus who, in truth, don’t follow Jesus. As hard as it is to be a Christian, our lives are complicated by those who counterfeit our faith and then behave in ways unbecoming a believer. These frauds (some outright deceivers but others simply deceived) are not a threat to our relationship with Jesus but they do impede the work of furthering God’s kingdom and create stress for anyone trying to be an ambassador of the truth.
Still, it’s not our job to sort it out. Jesus spoke of this in His parable in Matthew 13. “He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.” (Matt. 13:24-26)
Jesus instructs His followers not to try to tear out the weeds lest they root out some of the wheat as well. This doesn’t, however, mean we pretend this isn’t a problem. This situation demands self-control, on the one hand, and steadfast truth-telling on the other.
When an individual or person purporting to represent Jesus expresses hatred for others or promotes hatred, it’s not our job to assess the condition of their souls. Way above our pay grade. Immature believers, Christians who come under poor teaching, and sometimes traumatized Jesus-followers can certainly wrestle with the temptation to hate or operate under faulty doctrine for a time.
But, we don’t capitulate on this message. There’s no room for hatred of others in the heart of a Christian. The apostle John is plain about this.
“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” 1 John 3:14-16 ESV
“We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” 1 John 4:19-21 ESV
While we should exercise caution in speculating on a soul’s status with Christ, we can be bold in representing the truth that hatred has no place in a believer’s life. Christians have the capacity for hatred but a person whose character is marked by hate should take stock of his or her hold on the truth of Christ. Anyone who loves that person should be faithful to confront them with the words of scripture in regards to hate. If they refuse to repent, there’s a pathway described in Matthew 18:15-17.
Our goal in all cases should be to represent the truth of Christ in love, to encourage and exhort in the hope of repentance, and to submit our own hearts to the examination of the Holy Spirit, lest we fall prey to temptation.
Of course, not everything the world calls hate is hate. Speaking hard truth isn’t hatred. Obedience to the Word of Jesus isn’t hatred. Expecting people who love Jesus to mature, to grow up, to live up to their calling isn’t hatred. Explaining that there is only one way to God, through Jesus Christ, isn’t hatred.
Hatred is hatred. And, the opposite of hate isn’t tolerance. There are things that are intolerable to Jesus and they should also be intolerable to His followers but we persist in love even as we testify to the truth.
Jesus-followers live lives of love. Love for God, for our neighbors, and for our enemies. Loving the world because God so loved the world. No one escapes the rule of love. We don’t always make it look pretty but we keep practicing love.
When we face the temptation to hate, we must draw on the power of Jesus to escape that snare. We can have faith, however, that the true church, the one visible to Christ and ever in His view, will triumph over hatred, for we are more than conquerors – even of the temptations of our own souls.
Hate groups. Hate mongers. Purveyors of hate. Even if they slap the name of Jesus on their banners or websites, they are not of the One True God if their message is hate. Hatred feels strong, so many seek refuge beneath its roof in stormy times but it’s an illusion.
Hate’s opposition is love. Love is the only safe banner, even in these times. Love is the only secure refuge. Truth spoken in love the native tongue of every Jesus-follower.
Love relentlessly. Speak the truth about hatred with absolute surety. Our God is love.
— Lori Roeleveld (@lorisroeleveld) February 16, 2017
You’re restless. Trouble has you gasping by the side of the narrow road. This is your invitation back into the adventure! Running from a Crazy Man (and other adventures traveling with Jesus)