Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Battling Hate

Hate.  It's like the rash from the black plague.  Contagious, obvious to everyone who passes by, hard to treat, and sign of a fatal illness. 

And our country is brimming with it. 

I can't make it half a scroll down my Facebook feed and I see another angry post.  I wish I could say that it was just the lost hating each other.  That at least would be normal.  
But instead what I see is the Christians I know becoming angrier and angrier at the world around them. 

And it's not even election year. 

On this Make a Difference Monday I would like to suggest some practical things that Christians should remember about hate. 

1.  Not all battles are important.  Under no circumstances should a Christian be lured into an angry and hateful exchange over issues that are in no way spiritual.  It's ok to feel passionate about TV, sports teams, hobbies, your cultural heritage, your parenting/educational choices etc.  However if you are seduced by Satan in HATING people who disagree with you about such minor issues, he wins and you lose. 

2.   Hate is a "salvation-issue".  "We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister" (1 John 4:19-21).  The radical implication here is if we don't love our sisters and brothers, we DON'T love God. There is no wiggle room for those who are not children of God either-consider Romans 12:14 and Matthew 5:44.

3. Just because you aren't hateful doesn't mean hate doesn't exist.  I have sadly seen Christian turning a blind eye to all the hate and pain and injustice in the world (even sometimes in their own neighborhoods), because they are not themselves hateful people.  Jesus saw the people as sheep without a shepherd and felt compassion on them, and he responded.  Not only by healing and helping but by calling for prayer that God would send more workers into the fields.  (Matthew 9:36)

4. Lost people act in lost ways.  This is a motto at our house.  We remind ourselves of it every time that we are tempted to angrily judge those who don't know Jesus.  1 Corinthians 5:13 reminds us, "God will judge those outside".  Our job is to bring them the Good News that in Jesus Christ all their sins can be forgiven.

5.  Some issues matter.  Amos is a great example of the way that God's people should respond to social injustice.  Galatians makes it abundantly clear that in the church all people are baptized in the same blood and accepted by God in the same way.  Jesus has some of his harshest words for those who lead children astray.  There are things worth fighting for; God's children have always stood up and were counted on the side of justice and righteousness.  Yet our Father sends rain on the just and the unjust.  We are His imitators in both justice and mercy.

Praying Hands - Albrecht Durer6. Prayer IS a powerful response.  It is what Jesus called us to do those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44).  It is what Paul tells us we must do for our government (1 Timothy 2:1-2).  It is the response of the prophets and Psalmists to the wickedness and injustice in the world.  It was the confessional response of those who saw wickedness in their own nation (Nehemiah 1, Isaiah 6).  Don't imagine that prayer is an Eyeore sigh, "Well. I guess all we can do is pray." Instead prayer is mixed with the incense offered on the altar of God  and mixed with the fire of the altar and cast back down to earth in power to change things (Revelation 8: 1-5).

7. Return hate with love.  In the back of my mind, I remembered there were New Testament passages that added on to the Old Testament concept of allowing God to take your vengeance for you.  But I was astonished that it wasn't once or twice but four separate times, each one building on the idea that God wanted us to give up our "tit for tat" mentality and return hate with love (1 Peter 3:8-9, Romans 12:14-22, 1 Thessalonians 5:15, Matthew 5:38-48). In practical terms this means that when people respond hatefully to us in social media, at work, in conversation and in public, we must respond with love.  Don't forget that Jesus is the ultimate example of someone who loved his enemies (Romans 5:1-11).

So what am I going to do?  For one thing, I am going to pray more.  I'll be praying every day for the defeat of hatred in my local area as well as our nation.  I'll be praying for justice, because where there is justice there is peace.  I am going to be doing my best to portray love to those who are spewing hate (on every side of the arguments). I'm staying out of meaningless debate and I'll weigh in (as lovingly as possible) on issues that matter to God.   I'm going to be communicating clearly in every avenue I possess that hate is the opposite of who God is.  He is love.  Not the gooey kind - the selfless sacrificial kind.  I'm going to accept that rejecting hate often means embracing suffering.  And I'll be searching my heart for dark place where hate may lie.

I wish I had more practical application here.  Battling hatred is not a standard I took up before.  I'd love to know what you do in person, in the public forum, and in social media to defeat hate.


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