If there are two more difficult terms to fit into a belief system it may be the tandem love and hate. They're especially irritating right now because their use so inflames our over-sensitive cultural skin. Images of terrorism, racial tension, civil disobedience, political intrigue, and the usual suspects of human nature keep the tension on page one most of the time. Loving and hating properly may be our greatest challenge.
Esther Mae Owens Holmes taught the kids @ 407 Cherokee Drive that we're not supposed to hate anyone. As we matured, expressed personal faith, and moved out into the world the collision of love and hate became more obvious. Out there, as our own biases and prejudices and preferences became more distinct, loving became harder while hating became easier. Yet, faith taught us that they were incompatible, love and hate, especially when focused on other humans. Somewhere in the process most of us learned that to love God and hate our brother makes liars out of us (see 1 John 4:20).
Of course it's a big topic, the biblical instruction about loving and hating. One sub-text is the way we believers engage the world around us. Maybe it was just a particular imprint of being a conservative, evangelical Southern Baptist all of my life but I remember the witness tag line they taught us in BTU (Baptist Training Union for you younger ones). Good Christians will love the sinner and hate the sin.
Unpack that one for a minute. Sounds simple doesn't it? Love the sinner, hate the sin. The truth of the matter, however, is that layers of presumption have been super-imposed over it so that the simple and profound meaning has been marginalized to make it little more than a trite tag-line. So, how can we understand it and then make it happen? A couple of life realities must be factored into the process---
1. Cultural bias. Many of us are in denial about the anti-Christian sentiment in the
public square these day. But, Christians in general, and Baptist evangelicals in
particular are viewed as bigoted, hypocritical, hate-mongers by the media,
government, the educational hierarchy, and most other related institutions. No
amount of positioning, branding, or public pronouncement will change that. Read
the Bible. Culture is moving in a different direction.
2. Love equals ____________________ (fill in the blank)---agreement, acceptance, approval,
endorsement, understanding, acquiescence, concession, surrender, or silence, just to
mention a few). Because of 1 (above), someone else is writing the thesaurus these
days. So, the modern concept of love doesn't include correction, rebuke, or any of
the instructional or disciplinary ideals so central to it's deeper meaning.
God is _________________________ (fill in the blank) again. Once again, the choices are
many. But, cultural bias shades these descriptives in a loving, accepting, universal
approval while using a black permanent marker on terms like just, truth, sovereign,
holy, infinite, and omniscient.
3. Moral disconnect. Here, there are at least two side-tracks. One is that the secular
world rejects absolute truth. So, every action is relative. A second is just as profound.
Today our actions are not viewed as a reflection of our persona. So, murderers are
really good people, terrorists are just defending their noble beliefs that are just as
valid as ours, and we're all humans and can't do any better.
4. Double standards. Read the paper, listen to politicians, take notice of liberal
secularism and not the double standard that is applied to the Christian community.
5. Apologetic reduction. Few Christians can rationally discuss the basics of our
The little Epistle of Jude puts come of this in context for me. He wrote---
But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the
Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord
Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save
others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating
even the garment stained by the flesh.
It's the tension in expressing love for sinners and hatred for sin. Four actions help us mere humans keep it in perspective---
1. Keep yourselves in the love of God.
2. Have mercy on those who doubt. 3. Save others by snatching them out of the fire.
4. Show mercy to others with fear, hating the garments stained by the flesh.
Keeping ourselves in the love of God is so foundational. It must be our focus if we are to discern the times and deal with the tension of love and hate.
Right now I'm watching Fox News coverage of the multiple killings at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston. The tension of love and hate are on public display as those precious people try to comprehend this horrible tragedy. Little is known about the killer or the motives. But, it is a vivid demonstration of what is in my heart. Join me in praying for the families of the victims, the church, the local community, investigating police officers, and those who will minister in this situation.