As I have meditated on my previous post about emotionalism, it has occurred to me that much of my personal bias and weakness crept its way into my writing there. The Lord has brought to my attention my weakness regarding emotions – my tendency to dismiss them because I don’t feel them with particular strength or frequency, relatively speaking. As I mentioned in the last post, emotion is not, in and of itself, a bad thing – God Himself has them, after all. Instead, it is what we do with those feelings, or, rather, what they do with us, that can be sinful. However, we can embrace our passions, even cultivate them, if we can direct them toward God-honoring purposes. In this article, I will discuss an emotion that has a bad reputation, perhaps deservedly so, especially in Christian circles: hate.
Hatred is a fickle thing – prone to destruction, rather than any sort of productivity, yet, sometimes it is precisely destruction which is required. Indeed, we are frequently called to die to our sin (Romans 6: 2b “… We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” NIV). What else is death but a final destruction? Sin, therefore, is subject to destruction, but why? The reason lies in the nature of God and the bi-directional equivalency of this attributes. We often hear such phrases in the Church as “God is good,” and “God is love.” What these statements fail to convey is that they are equally true in reverse: “Good is God,” “Love is God.” Does this mean that every good deed we do is like unto God or that when we feel loving towards another person, we are like Him? Of course not. It does mean, however, that these things cannot exist apart from God. What does this have to do with sin and hatred? This: the gifts of God cannot exist without Him, and those things which God hates cannot exist with Him. Because of who God is, sin cannot suffer His presence. This is why whenever God revealed Himself to the heroes of the faith throughout the Old Testament, he never did so fully, because to do so would have destroyed the imperfect (sinful) recipient of His presence (Exodus: 33:20: “’But,’ He (God) said, ‘you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.’”)
How does all of this apply to my daily life and yours? Let us start by asking some clarifying questions and try and answer them one by one. These are the questions that occurred to me as I thought about how I might be able to harness God-given, righteous fury. We’ll follow this section by expanding upon the brief answers given here.
- What should I hate? What God hates.
- What does God hate? Sin.
- Do I hate it? Sometimes I do, sometimes I love it (otherwise I’d be perfect, and no one, save the Christ, is perfect)
- How can I tell whether or not I hate sin? By my behavior.
- Why don’t I hate what my behavior indicates that I do not hate? I am an insufficient image of God.
- How do I come to hate sin? By becoming like God.
- How do I become like God? By abiding in His word and obeying His commands.
As you can see, each answer begs another question which ultimately resolves in the same answer that I’ve been writing about in every post: obey God. This may seem trite (or it will soon), but it is the lifeblood of the Christian life and therefore a part of every discussion of how to live well as a disciple of Christ.
To the first question: What should I hate. Proverbs 8: 13 says “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.” The fear of the Lord is a right-understanding of our relation to God, that is, that we are beneath Him in dignity, power, and righteousness; according to Proverbs 9:10 it is “the beginning of wisdom.” So, to hate what God hates is to begin to become wise in the ways of Heaven.
This leads us to the next question: What does God hate? As I alluded to earlier, God hates sin. Let us look to a familiar passage: the verses attributed to the Catholic doctrine of the 7 deadly sins, Proverbs 6 16-19:
16 “There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17 haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19 a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.”
In short: God hates sin. As an aside, it is worth reiterating the definition of sin that I am operating from. Sin is any deviation from God – any intention or action which is not of Him. This includes actions taken with the intent to honor Him, but which are executed imperfectly, as well as intentions that are not carried out.
Now that it is clear what we as Christ followers ought to hate, we must ask ourselves if we, in fact, hate it. The question becomes clearer when we look to previous discussions about belief. We know what we believe by how we behave. Similarly, we know what we hate by that from which we abstain – we don’t do things we genuinely hate to do. Conversely, we know that actions which we take are not things we hate. Thus, the question “Do I hate this sin?” becomes “Do I participate in this sin or contemplate doing so?” a question easily answered.
Knowing now that we do not hate sin, or, at least, not all sin, we must ask why that is so. We are born again in Christ, having died to our sin and no longer enslaved to it. Why, then, do we persist in our sin? Surely not to add to God’s glory, nothing we can do is capable of that and we are specifically instructed not to try by those means: For it is written “1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6: 1-2) To answer the first question, then, requires asking another: who hates sin? You’ll notice that this question has been both asked and answered already – God. So, we don’t hate sin because we are insufficiently similar to God, thus, to hate sin – all sin – we must become more like God. If you’ve picked up on a theme here, it’s because becoming like God is the answer to every question of sanctification – indeed, it is this (among other things) that Christ means when He refers to Himself as “the Way.”
Thus, we return to the central theme of this blog – to become like Christ. My advice here is nothing new – as it is written: “… there is nothing new under the sun.” In order to be like God, our desires must be His desires and we must act according to His commands. The only way to do that is by “abiding in Him,” by being in and meditating on His word, and by being in constant communion with Him. There is, however, a third aspect of abiding in Him that I have not touched on yet here, and that is abiding with His people, which will be discussed in a series of posts to come. For now, go forth and be “… more than conquerors.”