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The Christian Not a Hater

Our faith would look very different and be hardly worth the name if our Lord had gone to the cross fussing and fuming. If anyone could justly “call names” and vilify, he could. He “knew what was in all men” (John 2:25). And yet, “when reviled, he did not revile” (1 Pet. 2:23) To revile means to heap abuse on someone, to hurl insults at them. “When he suffered, he did not threaten.” 

Some might respond, “He was our Savior and had to suffer like this.” This is true, but beside the point, for the Holy Spirit first said: “Because Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps” (1 Pet. 2:21). Therefore, while his sufferings were unique and saving, his example for us when suffering and threatened by wicked men is normative and sanctifying. 

And his example is important. We sometimes hear that Christians need to learn how to hate again. I am so thankful that this is lesson is nowhere taught in Scripture. It is not the example of our Savior. Since our Savior’s kingdom is not from this world, we do not fight as worldlings do – curses, violence, and hatred. The Christian is not a hater. 

We are hated. This is why not hating in return is a heavenly grace. Loving one’s enemies is a mark of God’s children – it is to be like our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:44-48). He loved us when were his enemies (Rom. 5:8,10). He did not hate us. He hates his enemies, to be sure, and sometimes we think we can spot them clearly. David once said: “Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate you?...I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them my enemies” (Ps. 139:21). 

Before any Christian can say this, however, several things must be true of him. First, he must be able to speak confidently as a type of the Messiah. Second, he must be inspired by the Holy Spirit. Third, he must be able to find one example where Christians are commanded to hate our enemies or God’s enemies as part of our duty to God and man. This cannot be found. We are everywhere commanded to love our enemies. We are nowhere commanded to hate. Righteous anger may certainly be in order, but “culture wars” never negate the duty of Christian love. Look at Jesus Christ before the Praetorian guards and on the cross – loving his enemies (and God’s) and forgiving. This is our commanded example. Hear God’s warning against works of the flesh such as hatred, contentiousness, and wrath: “they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21).

Far too much worldly militarism and fleshly aggression have crept into our thinking. However much we are provoked, hate in thought, word, or deed is a suppression of grace. Hatred in us is a fruit of our fallen, sinful nature. Anyone can hate. Only the Christian can love, and this is the reason it is our distinguishing fruit (John 13:35; Gal. 5:22; 1 John 4:7) – not vilification of others, name-calling, or abusive slang terms for those who are different or differ from us. Toward all men, God commands that “our speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt” (Gal. 4:6). Toward all men, he commands us to abound in love (1 Thess. 3:12).

It is not like Jesus Christ to hate others – however sinful and wicked they may be. We may need to keep a healthy distance, warn them of their evil, protect ourselves from them, even separate from them, especially if they claim to be a brother or sister and live in unrepentant wickedness (1 Cor. 5:11). Christian love is not passive and does not shy away from speaking the truth, confronting sin, and boldly warning of judgment. Christian love also endures wrongs patiently, receives abuse without abusing in return, and forgives one enemies – just as God in Christ has done for us. 

To overcome the temptation to become haters, we must come before the cross constantly and have our pride stripped off by the power and grace of Jesus Christ. Only his stripes applied to us by the Holy Spirit can atone for the evil of our hateful hearts, cleanse us from these dead works, and empower us to walk in the new life of love, as he loved us. 

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