That title caught your attention, didn’t it?
Yes, it’s what I meant to type.
It wasn’t auto-correct changing a misspelling to the wrong word…though I have certainly cursed the auto-correct feature many times for doing just that.
It isn’t some private rant mistakenly posted to my blog…I keep my private rants in pen-and-ink so that they’re easier to control (how’s that for transparency?).
And nobody hacked my website and posted it in an attempt to embarrass me…I am perfectly capable of embarrassing myself without any help.
No, the intended topic today really is Hate Properly Placed.
First, there are circumstances where hate is proper. But before running with that statement, let’s go a little deeper.
Humans – and particularly Christian humans – can be very adept at displaying hate, anger and other negative emotions. We justify it in various ways. We tag the word ‘righteous’ onto it as if that word will somehow make whatever we are thinking, saying or doing pure and holy. We enumerate why the target of our judgment deserves it and why everyone else should hate them as well. We defend our actions and reactions by claiming we are defending our loved ones, or innocents, or baby seals, or even God.
But here’s what I know: any time our hatred, anger or other negative emotion is aimed at a person, it is wrong.
It doesn’t matter how good the reason is. It doesn’t matter how justified I feel. It doesn’t matter how many people agree with me or cheer for me or stand on their desks and recite Walt Whitman poetry (who can name that movie reference?).
It is never okay in God’s eyes to hate a human being. We can be upset, irate, or angry about what they are doing. We can hate the things they stand for or the activities they support. But when the hate is directed toward the person, it has crossed the line.
Many of us have heard the term “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” It’s become something of a cliché in the church, but it’s the best rule of thumb by which to check our emotions. It’s what God teaches us. It’s what Jesus modeled for us.
Think about it. When people see a need to justify their anger or hate, what is their go-to bible story? Jesus chasing out the money changers (Matt 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-17, Luke 19:45-46, John 2:14-16). “Even Jesus got angry,” they will say, as they flip pages to one of those passages in a huff.
But notice one thing about this story…Jesus does not get angry with the people, but with what they are doing! He overturns the furniture, He dumps their wares and upends their cash boxes, He even makes a whip and runs them out of the courtyard. But all the while His criticism is directed at what they are doing, not who they are.
Or look at all the places where He contends with the religious leaders (which incidentally are the only ones that He ever really gets harsh with – if Jesus were in some of our churches today, He wouldn’t get nearly as upset with the abortion doctors or the gay rights activists or the drug addicts as He would with the people so arrogantly condemning them).
Anyway, back to Jesus and the religious leaders: He calls them hypocrites, blind leaders of the blind, etc. But He always specifically tells them what the issue is…because His indignation is leveled against their actions and their attitudes, not their persons.
When we aim the hate at the person, we are shackling ourselves in chains that will hold us much tighter than they will ever hold the subject of our hatred. Because, in that case, what if that person changes? Answer: Our hate will remain – in fact, we’ll probably look for other reasons to hate them. Essentially, we develop the attitude portrayed in the sign pictured above – shoot the trespassers, and if they survive (i.e., try to make positive change), shoot them again!
Jesus could love and accept Pharisees like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea and Saul of Tarsus because he didn’t hate them for being Pharisees, He hated the religiosity and the judgmental attitudes that Pharisaism represented.
Does that make sense? I hope so. Because I have one more thing to cover. I know I’m already running longer than normal, but bear with me as I work out this last very important piece.
Our hate should never be directed toward a person.
You are a person (profound, I know).
So guess what that means?
It means that no matter how ugly you think you are inside, no matter what mistakes you’ve made or how you’ve blown it, no matter who has broken your boundaries or how much you are convinced you are somehow responsible for them doing so, no matter what broken overgrown pothole-covered trail you have traveled to get where you stand today – you have no right to hate or be angry at you!
You can hate the bad things you have done (that’s part of repentance). You can be angry about the poor choices you’ve made (and honestly, you should). You can be upset about the fact you hurt people (again, as you should).
But never, never, never, ever turn that hatred and anger on yourself personally. It’s counter-productive, it’s self-defeating, and it’s a ploy of the Enemy to keep you in chains!
So the next time you feel that hate welling up inside of you, check it. First, of course, make sure it’s proper. Then, make sure your sights are directed down-range at the offense, and not at the guy standing next to you on the firing line or at yourself.
When you get that right, you’ll realize you’re in a much better position to experience – and show – the love of God.