Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hatred is an Appropriate Christian Response

9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good--Romans 12:9

God is love.  Yes.
Christianity preaches love.  Yes.
Christianity is all about love.  Yes.
Christianity gets rid of hate.  No.

Folks who say this do not understand Christianity.  Neither do they understand love.   Hatred is an absolute part of Christianity, and it is vitally necessary in living an active, public, Christian life.

The recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia bring this to light.  There were several hundred neo-Nazi, white supremacists marching.  They had come from all over the country.  Residents from Charlottesville didn't want them there.  They didn't desire their town to be making headlines, but social media gives us a platform to organize and bring together people from all over--a platform which was non-existent only a couple of decades ago.  So, in the big picture of things several hundred white supremacists in a nation of over 300 million is a minuscule, minuscule percentage of the population.

Yet, what they stand for...

Is deserving of hate.

Yes, a Christian is to hate what these people stand for.  A Christian is to hate their ideology.  A Christian is to burn with hatred toward it--because a Christian is full of love.

That might sound like an oxymoron.  But it isn't.

If you have genuine love...
If you have been claimed by the good news of Jesus Christ...
If you no longer live for yourself but live your life for God...

You love what God loves.
You hate what God hates.

Yes.  God hates.  If you don't believe it, you need to read and re-read your Bible and stop having your own presuppositions regarding God.  You need to allow God to reveal Himself to you and stop making God into your own image.  If you allow God's revelation of Himself to the world to stand, you will see that God unequivocally hates, abhors, is horrified by our failure to live in a right relationship with Him and with one another.  In short, God hates sin.  Absolutely hates it.  His wrath burns hot against it.

--For I the Lord love justice,  I hate robbery and wrongdoing.  (Isaiah 61:8)

--Yet I persistently sent to you all my servants the prophets, saying, ‘I beg you not to do this abominable thing that I hate!’  (Jeremiah 44:4)

--I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. (Amos 5:21) not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath; for all these are things that I hate, says the Lord.  (Zechariah 8:17)

--For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel, and covering one’s garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless. (Malachi 2:16)

--For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18)

--Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient. (Ephesians 5:6)

And it must.  It must.  If God does not become outraged at murder, what kind of God is that?  If God does not erupt at injustice, what kind of God is that?  If God smells roses when people are allowed to die of famine, what kind of God is that?  An uncaring God.  An unloving God.  And God is not unloving.  God's great love leads God to hate.

But God does not hate individuals.  God does not hate people.  He has great love for them.  He wants them all to turn to Him.  He will give them every opportunity to come to Him; to renounce sin, the devil, and all his empty promises.  It breaks God's heart each and every time a man or woman made in God's image walks away from Him.  But God loves them enough to let them go.  And He also hates it.  He wants to see no one walk that dark path.

And neither do we.
We love what God loves.
We hate what God hates.

We love those who are created in the image of God.  We desire them to come to God.  Even those neo-Nazi/white supremacists.  Yes.  Even them.  We want those neo-Nazi/white supremacists to come to God for the sake of their repentance, forgiveness, and new life in the Gospel.

But we hate what they stand for.  We hate their ideology.  We hate their sin.  For the idea of racial superiority is not supported by the Gospel.  The idea of racial intolerance is not supported by the Gospel.  The idea of domination by one particular group over another is not supported by the Gospel.  God has made it clear in Jesus that there is neither Jew nor Greek (no ethnicity); there is neither slave nor free (no social status); no male or female (no gender) for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.  All have been clothed with Christ.  Such distinctions have disappeared for those called and claimed in the Gospel.  (Galatians 3)  We cling to this because it is good.

And we hate anything that is contrary to this.

Because in order for Christians to love what is from God, we must also hate what is not.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Correcting the Wrong to Do the Right

I have never worn contact lenses.  Never.  Ever.  There is something about sticking a foreign object into my eye that I find completely objectionable and revolting.

So, I have absolutely no experience what-so-ever when it comes to popping those things in and taking them out.

This background is important given that my oldest daughter has now started trying to wear contact lenses.  She wants to play volleyball, and it's easier to have her in contacts than to buy a pair of sports glasses.

This morning, I walked in on her trying to put those things in.  And she was crying.  She was having great difficulty getting the lenses to stick to her eye.  I could see the frustration on her face.  She had been trying for about half an hour.

I hugged her and told her to walk away for a few minutes.  She got up and sat on the couch and watched television.  I sat down beside her and said, "Sometimes, when you are getting too frustrated, you've got to walk away and come back in a little bit."  She calmed down.

I looked up on my phone "contact lenses not sticking" and discovered that your finger needs to be dry because those things stick to wet surfaces and not dry ones.  I informed my daughter of this, and we went back to try again.

I thought we were in for a quick success story because she got the first one in in only three attempts.

But then came the second one.  One.  Two.  Three.  Four.  Five.  Six.  Seven.  Eight tries.  All unsuccessful.  She was working on the eye opposite of me, so I moved around to watch what was going on.  Immediately, I saw the problem.  She was blinking just before getting the lens to her eyeball.

"You are blinking right before you get the lens in," I said.  "You've got to concentrate on holding your eye open."

"YOU'RE NOT HELPING!!"  She retorted.

"You've got to know what you are doing wrong so that you can correct it," I replied.  "Concentrate on keeping your eye open.  Stop crying.  Settle down.  You can do it."

First try.  Unsuccessful.

"You can do it.  Just concentrate."

Second try.  Bingo!

"I told you you could do it."

"Thank you, Daddy."

Several things occurred to me as I thought about this little event in my life this morning.

First, you have to know what you are doing wrong, and sometimes you cannot see it.  Blinking is like breathing.  It's involuntary, and you don't even think about it when you are doing it.  My daughter couldn't see it when she was blinking right before that lens hit her eye.  She needed to be told what she was doing wrong.

Second, no one really likes being told what they are doing wrong.  My daughter's reaction was typical.  It's the way I react as well.  I don't like being told that I am doing something wrong.  Most of the time I think the same thing my daughter said, "You're not being helpful."

Third, if you take the response personally, you will make the situation worse.  Yelling at my daughter after her response would have been counter-productive.  There would have been no movement forward.  She would have been more tense.  I would have been more tense.  It would have taken forever to get those lenses in.  Calmness but firmness was required.   "You've got to know what you are doing wrong so that you can do it right."  Explanation.  Compassion.  Deep breath.  Move forward. 

Fourth, if you are going to get someone to change, you can't just tell someone they are wrong.  You've got to be supportive and encourage them as they try to do right.  I could have kept telling my daughter to keep her eye open.  Don't blink.  That would have made her even more tense.  It would have made her more anxious and upset.  I did tell her to do that, but at the very same moment, I offered her words of encouragement.  Love.  Relaxation.  She knew what she needed to do, but having me continue to point the finger without giving her space would not have been helpful.  In theological terms, she needed Law and Gospel.

Fifth, thankfulness comes.  You are not going to get any thanks right away for trying to correct the wrong.  You will most likely get push back to begin with.  But sticking to your position; offering support and encouragement even in the face of initial reaction; just staying until there is success; and then offering congratulations, will bring about joyful thanksgiving.

I think there is a theological lesson here somewhere about God's work to correct our wrong by showing us firmness, compassion, and love.  And I think there is a lesson about our response as well.