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Are Christians Known by What They Hate?

angry lady with Bible

by Dennis Pollock

My daughter recently posted a question on Facebook which elicited a huge response. She shared how she had heard someone on a radio interview state that Christians are known more by what they hate than by what they love. She then asked people to share their opinions on the subject. Many people declared that the followers of Christ have more of a reputation for hating than loving. This was not the first time I had heard this statement. It is a fairly common thought, and there may well be some truth to it. But it defies a simplistic answer.

Of course, Christians have a lot of opinions and views on numerous subjects and no two think exactly alike. However, the question my daughter posed had to do with the perception of Christians in general. Are we evangelicals so vigorous in our disapproval of certain practices and behaviors and so mild in promoting those things we love and approve that we cause non-Christians to see us more as “haters” than “lovers?”

As mentioned, there are a lot of Christians in this world, plus no doubt millions of those who profess to be Christians but have never tasted genuine grace and are not true Christians. Among the millions or billions of those who call themselves Christians there are no doubt a number of them who are far more vocal and vociferous about what they hate and disapprove than what they love and hold dear. But that was not the question. She did not ask if any individual Christian might be known more as a hater, but rather whether Christians as a whole, and specifically evangelical Christians, are primarily known by what they hate.

Should We Hate Anything?

Some responders suggested that as Christians we shouldn’t hate anything. In their minds we should be so positive, so affirming, and so full of love that our words and attitudes will continually reflect a positive view of all life, and a positive view of all people, and all that goes on under the sun. I’m sure these folks are not suggesting that everything that goes on in our world is good, but they seem to feel that as Christians our focus should be so much on the positive that we barely notice and never speak of things like rape, murder, wife abuse, abortion, sexual immorality, child-beatings, racial bigotry, injustice, and the like. They suggest that our job is simply to tell the world of God’s love and the offer of His Son. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

Whether this is a proper attitude and posture for believers is easily discerned. We have a great big book called the Bible which reveals to us not only God’s perspective on life, the world, and the goings-on of men and women, but also shows us men and women of God who have walked closely with Him. By reading their words and learning their attitudes we can surely discover a few things about how we should think and speak regarding this question.

Let’s start with God Himself. Some would tell us that we should not hate anything. Yet we are told in the Bible to be imitators of God, and commanded, “Be holy, just as I, the Lord your God am holy.” Thus, it cannot be wrong to try to follow God in His ways, attitudes, and words.

Does God hate anything? We know that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” so clearly He loves people. But does this mean that He doesn’t hate anything – any action, any behavior, any form of cruelty, or abuse, or oppression? Anyone who knows the Bible knows better than this. In Proverbs 8 we read:

The fear of the LORD is to hate evil;
Pride and arrogance and the evil way
And the perverse mouth I hate (Proverbs 8:13).

Here we are told that if we qualify as those who fear God, we will hate evil. We will hate lying, abortion, pride, sexual immorality, violence, oppression, bigotry, cruelty, and bullying. God-fearers are not mild when it comes to these things. They do not have a slight distaste for them. They positively hate, loathe, and abhor these practices, just as their God does. Suppose you had a neighbor who frequently beat his little six-year-old daughter to the point of bruising her and making her bleed. What should your attitude be toward such a man? Would you suppose that by telling him occasionally, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” this would be enough? In fear of being known as a hater, would you avoid ever mentioning the fact that he is cruelly abusing his daughter?

I hope this would not be your posture. Far better to catch him in the act, go out and knock the man to the ground and give him a taste of his own medicine (if you can manage it). Or if you are physically incapable of that, at least call the police and put his child-beating carcass in jail for a while. To simply give him smiles and reminders of how much God loved him would not merely be inadequate, it would be almost as immoral as what he was doing.

“I Testify”

Jesus told His disciples, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil” (John 7:7). Jesus was not afraid to speak out against sin and wickedness. He could speak harshly just as freely as He could declare “God so loved the world…” In His memo to the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2, He told the believers: “But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate” (Revelation 2:6). Earlier He had some criticisms of this church, but he finishes His brief words to them with a commendation (paraphrased): “You hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans – good job! I hate them as well” (the deeds, not the people). To the church at Pergamos, He says something similar: “Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate” (Revelation 2:15). So Jesus not only hated the deeds of these Nicolaitans, but he also hated their doctrines, the teachings that they were espousing. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to be a part of a group whose actions and teachings were hated by the Lord Jesus. I’d get out of that group fast!

In the book of Proverbs we find an actual list of things the Lord especially hates:

These six things the LORD hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren. (Proverbs 6:16-19)

In Psalms we read, “You who love the LORD, hate evil!” (Psalm 97:10). At this point I think any objective person will have to acknowledge that God surely hates certain behaviors and attitudes, and wants us to feel the same way He does. Do we see this same thing in the words and lives of the great heroes of the Bible? The greatest example of the essence of Christian behavior and attitudes may be found in the life and writings of the apostle Paul. If ever there was a model for us to emulate, it would be Paul.

Paul’s Views

What do we find when we read the epistles of the great apostle? Was he so overwhelmingly positive that he never said anything negative at all about anybody, any action, any practice, or any attitude? Again, anyone who knows the Bible knows the answer to that one. Paul had all kinds of things to say about what we should do and what we should never do, about good and evil. His writings are not simply a mind-numbing repetition of how wonderful God thinks we are and how we all carry the “seeds of greatness” within us. He talked about God’s love, for sure, but he also talked about sin, and was decidedly against it! And he frequently listed certain sins and practices which, when practiced regularly and consistently, would keep us out of heaven. To the Corinthians he wrote:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

Time and space do not permit me to go on, but I could list verse after verse after verse in which Paul blasts sinners and professing Christians who live flagrantly ungodly and immoral lives. Was Paul a hater? No, he was simply following God who has never been reticent to speak out against sin and rebellion. If you don’t believe that, check out the huge section of the Old Testament known as the prophetic books, in which God speaks through His servants to vividly declare the sins of Israel, and their pressing need to repent.

Why the Charge of Hate?

So why do we hear this idea about Christians being known by what they hate? What makes this idea ironic is that it has never been more inaccurate (as a general rule) than it is today. Never have the church and the pastors and the sermons we hear been more mild and free from negatives. In our rush to be seeker-sensitive and attract as many people as we possibly can, pastors and Bible teachers today preach milder, gentler, fuzzier, friendlier, “smilier” sermons than have ever been heard or seen in the history of Christianity. When was the last time you heard a really tough, convicting sermon? When was the last time you heard a pastor mention hell, let alone make it a major theme of his sermon? Jesus declared that the world hated Him because He testified that its works were evil. How many pastors, evangelists, home group leaders, Sunday School teachers, television preachers, radio preachers, youth group leaders, or any other kind of Christian leaders today are hated for such reasons? There may be  a few, but not many!

One reason those of us who do speak out against the evils of our society are labeled as haters, is that when we speak of all those other things: the gospel of Christ, the love of God, prayer, faith, patience, holiness, and humility, the world pays little attention. But if we ever dare speak out against homosexuality or fornication or abortion, they sit up and take notice. “Haters!” they cry with all the moral outrage they can muster. “Extremists, primitive homophobes, fighting fundamentalists, unintelligent, bigoted, backward, biased Bible thumpers! Simplistic, naïve, out-of-step, on-the-wrong-side-of-history, intolerant, insensitive, fanatical haters! Why don’t you shut up and mind your own business!”

We Cannot Keep Silent

What they do not realize is that sharing God’s mind and His ways with people is our business. It is our job, indeed our Lord’s command, to make disciples of all the nations. We must declare the gospel, but we must also proclaim man’s need to repent. Repentance goes hand in hand with faith in Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection. Just as John the Baptist must precede Jesus, repentance must precede faith. But people cannot repent as long as they feel they have done no wrong. In our world today, the consciences of men and women have been seared as with a hot iron. Since they have no functional conscience, we who follow Christ must be their conscience. We must tell them all that God expects of them. Since they will never hear it from the pop singers or the news media or the comedians, or the athletes, or the talk-show hosts, we must inform them that they must repent of their wicked ways, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for the gift of salvation and eternal life. There is no genuine faith without genuine repentance.

They may call us haters, but in truth we are lovers. We love the sinners so much we are willing to endure their scorn and the nasty labels they attach to us, in order that some may see the truth, come to their senses, and receive Christ by faith. We should definitely make an effort to avoid unnecessarily offending people, and speak the truth in love, but we must also recognize that sometimes offense cannot be avoided. God’s people are to be a prophetic people, declaring forcefully, but with compassion, “This is what God hates, this is what He loves, and this is what He demands of you.”

 

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