“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44).
Nothing destroys the credibility of Christian witness like a healthy dose of hatred.
Unfortunately, our world has been misled about what hatred is. We are told that the worst form of hatred is “intolerance,” and that it is more loving to simply “live and let live.” This, my friends, is a deadly lie. We ought not tolerate sin in our midst any more than we would tolerate a boa constrictor in the crib of a sleeping infant.
Out of love for the precious child, we would strike at the fiendish serpent, tearing it from the body of the infant and crushing it underfoot. However, at the same time as we are ruthlessly killing the snake, we would take the utmost care not to harm or damage the child.
In the same way, though God instructs us to hate sin and take all measures to remove it from the life of a believer, we care deeply for the one who has become entangled by the serpent and exercise great caution lest we harm their faith. Sin has crept into their life as they lie numbed and sleeping, lulled into a sense of comfort and safety by the world. Though their sin may be large and hideous, what mother would be so overwhelmed by the sight of the gruesome serpent that she would forget herself and strike out at her own child in order to kill the snake?
And yet, that is exactly what happens all too often with Christians. Our hatred is misdirected; we forget that sin, death, and the Devil are the enemies, and that the sinners are – in at least some sense – victims. Even if your child had been playing with snakes and bringing them into his bedroom, you would still not hesitate to rush to their rescue when they lie crushed and strangling. A lecture may soon follow the harrowing experience, but saving the life of the child would undoubtedly come first.
Our “enemies” are such because of sin in the world – the disgusting serpent that has wrapped its slimy body around you and me and all people. We react angrily to sin, especially sin directed toward us. This anger translates quickly to hatred when we put ourselves first, thinking about my comfort, my peace, and my reputation before the needs of our sinful neighbor and the commands of our loving God. Instead of directing our ill will towards this person, we can respond in love, showing them God’s “more excellent way” and gently, yet firmly, pulling the serpent from around their throat.
The “me first” philosophy is certainly prevalent in our society, and perhaps it is largely to blame for the rampant hatred in our world. Our weapons against this evil are patience, kindness, gentleness, and of course, love. Don’t be deluded into thinking that your own neck is serpent-free; rest assured that you offend others daily with your carelessness, thoughtlessness, and callous insensitivity. Let us look always to the needs and interests of others (even our “enemies”) and to the calling we have received from our great and merciful God. Let us ever be ruthless and unrelenting when handling the serpent of sin, yet tender and loving to the precious child of God about whom it is wrapped.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen…Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:29;31-32)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, as You strengthen and equip me to fight the evils of sin, grant me also an extra measure of Your love, that I might deal compassionately with those who deal wickedly with me; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, my Lord. Amen.