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Archive for November, 2011

Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.  1 John 3:15

There are a lot of Christians who hate other Christians.

I can hear you asking, “Jim, are you sure about that?  Hate?”

Yes.  Hate.

There are Christians who hate certain politicians, like Barack Obama (for his politics) and Mitt Romney (for his faith).

There are Christians who hate institutions, like the government or the IRS or the DMV.

There are Christians who hate a parent, or a sibling, or an ex-spouse, or a turncoat friend.

There are even Christians who hate their pastor.

Several years ago, I was informed that a Christian leader did not like me.  I arranged a meeting with him and we had an awkward discussion.  Toward the end of our time, I asked him, “So what you’re saying is that you’ve hated me all this time?”

This individual admitted as much.

I have reason to believe that hatred went viral.  It certainly decimated our relationship.

I hate being hated.  And I hate hating others.  Richard Nixon once said that all great leaders are great haters, but I don’t know about that.

Let me make three quick observations about Christians and hatred:

First, it’s important to admit that we hate.  I once knew a Christian leader who I felt was angry with me.  Since I valued our relationship, I asked him, “Are you mad at me?”  He replied, “No, I’m mad at sin.”

But he was really angry with me – and I knew it.

But we Christians have a hard time admitting when we hate.  We excuse, rationalize, deny … and even lie to preserve our image as kind, gentle, loving believers.

However, our word selection, tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language give us away.

Say it slowly: “Right now, I hate __________” (a person).  Such an admission doesn’t mean you’re going to hell, but it might shock you into realizing that your soul is ill and needs divine healing.

However, what do we do?  We say, “I hate the lie Joe told about me” when the truth is that we hate Joe for lying about us.

I truly believe that if we Christians could admit that our hurt feelings have degenerated into hatred, we could make more progress in our spiritual lives.  Accumulated hatred becomes bitterness and slows our growth to a crawl.

Second, personal hatred easily becomes contagious.  I recently suffered from sinus problems.  When I went out with a friend for a meal, I greeted him but didn’t shake his hand because, I told him, I didn’t want to pass on any germs.

But our negative feelings about other believers do get passed on to our circle of influence.

There is a Christian author I greatly admire.  I’ve never met him or heard him speak in person, but his books have had a profound impact on my life.

But I have a friend who has spent time with this author, and my friend does not hold this author in high regard.  He has told me that the author’s personal conduct does not match the ideals found in his books.

What do I do with that information?  In my case, I chose to ignore it, and recently read another book by that same author.  But some Christians would allow my friend’s view to become their own without any firsthand experience.

I believe that a lot of conflicts in churches are ignited by personal hatred.  Much of the time, someone hates the pastor on a personal level.  Maybe he didn’t visit their child in the hospital, or they were offended by something he said in a sermon, or the pastor and a parishioner disagree about something … and the parishioner finds a way to turn their personal issue into something official.

The pastor is later charged with all kinds of offenses – and nobody ever discovers that the ensuing conflict really originated with one person’s hatred.

Finally, we need to confess our hatred to the Lord.  When I was nearing college graduation, I was leaving campus one day when a female student called out to me.  We had gone to the same church for a few years and were friends, although I sensed at one time that she wanted to be more than that.

Anyway, she had something to tell me: she had hated me for a long time (because I didn’t want to be more than friends) and wanted to ask my forgiveness.

(I guess a lot of people hate me that I don’t know about.  If you’re in that group, please keep it to yourself.  I would rather assume that you like me.)

I instantly forgave her – for which she was grateful – but can’t remember ever seeing her again.  I felt badly that she’d carried those feelings for so long.

But did I need to know how she felt, especially since we hadn’t had any contact in years?

Some would say yes, others would disagree.

But I do know this: when I hate someone – especially another believer – I need to confess those feelings to Jesus.  He promises to forgive me and free me from my hatred.

But many of us prefer to hold on to our feelings because they make us feel powerful … and self-righteous … and justified.

Let me quote from Don Henley in his brilliant song Heart of the Matter – a song that is thoroughly Christian lyrically:

There are people in your life who’ve come and gone

They let you down, you know they hurt your pride

You better put it all behind you, baby, ’cause life goes on

If you keep carryin’ that anger, it’ll eat you up inside …

That’s good theology … even from an Eagle who had rows with his bandmates.

Be honest.  It’s just you and God right now.

Who do you hate?

What are you going to do about it?

Listen to His Spirit … and lay the hatred aside.

You’ll feel so much better.

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