Are you a “hateful” person, clinging to uninclusive doctrines that separate and divide people? Or, have you embraced the ever-increasingly popular worldview that everything, except intolerance, is acceptable?
“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God…” (I Corinthians 2:12)
As far back as there are written records–even to the Cain and Abel account–there have been those who cling to what the Creator commands, and those who hate them for it. Abel lost his life because he did what God commanded, and while we in the United States are not yet losing our lives for Biblical truth, those who refuse to be swayed from a pure and unadulterated understanding of Scripture are increasingly maligned and misrepresented. They are called hateful and intolerant, yet it is typically those who levy such accusations who are.
The problem is one of standards. God has rules, and humankind does not want them. We want the freedom to do as we please and be told it is okay, as much as our consciences disagree (why else the fervent push for affirmation and acceptance?). Those who stubbornly insist what we want is wrong irk us and elicit our ire–they are the proverbial thorn in the side of a society that wants to do as it pleases without restraint. Just as John the Baptist lost his life for insisting Herod was in a wrongly adulterous relationship with his brother’s wife, those who cling to the truth of the Word of God without trying to reinterpret it to say what they want are a constant reminder of sin to those who do. But what about the claim that certain passages have been misinterpreted? What about “new evidence” that various lifestyles long considered sinful within Christianity were not only practiced, but even accepted, earlier in the church’s history?
God does love people. He genuinely “…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 2:4) But this knowledge involves recognizing our own hopelessly broken condition apart from the forgiveness and power of Christ. We are not naturally okay; we are corrupted from our youngest moments by the sin nature we possess that permeates our very being and pushes and pulls us into all kinds of wrong thinking and wrong living. We may not recognize it as such, but its fountainhead is rebellion against the authority of God in our lives, and it shows itself in a myriad of sins from lying, to cheating and stealing, violence, and the wrong use of our bodies.
An unbiased examination of the Bible clearly reveals that much of what is passed off today as sexual expression is just one more way we rebel against God, and rather than being misinterpretations, the Biblical prohibitions against alternative sexual practices are part of a cohesive message. “And He [Jesus] answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh…” (Matthew 19:4-6) Sexual expression is intended not for experimentation, for “finding yourself,” or merely for physical gratification. It is the way God uses the love of a husband and wife to create the miracle of a new family unit to perpetuate humanity!
Yet, we must differentiate that it is not the temptation that is sin, but the behavior. We are all lured daily by a multitude of sins–depending on our background and on who we are–but we do not give in because we have the power of Christ: “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’ And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.” ( I Peter 1:13-17)
Of course, the claim that a behavior is right in the eyes of God because it was practiced at some point in the church’s history is ludicrous. In Martin Luther’s day the Catholic Church sold penances–literally pieces of paper claiming forgiveness for various sins–but that did not make this practice right! But what about the accusation of hatefulness? What, really, does it mean to hate?
God has clearly said, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” (I John 3:15 ) The accusation of hate levied toward the people of God is particularly offensive because rather than being hateful, confronting sin is the most loving thing one person can do for another! How can you, having the Bible and its clear condemnation of sin, lie to another human being simply to gain their approval–or even to make them feel better–especially when their deception can result in eternal separation from the love and mercy of God?! No, real, courageous love demands truthfulness.
So, do you hate others? Or, do you love them, reverently holding out to them the message taught in Scripture and adhered to by the people of God for generations–that God gives forgiveness and acceptance when we turn from our own ways and trust Christ to make us into the people He wants us to be? The message of Christ is inherently divisive because He separates His sheep from the goats, right from wrong, those who cling to Him at all cost and even when it hurts from those who hate Him. Remember that He also said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.'” (Matthew 10:34-35)
In the end, if we cling to the unadultered teaching of the Bible we may become increasingly unpopular; we may even, at some point, be genuinely hated by some. Yet, we are not at liberty to reinterpret what God has said. So, remember: “…whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33)
Help me hold out to others the love You have for them, and please! Help them see that only the truth can really make them free! Amen!