A bright, quiet morning greets you; faint wisps of nocturnal clouds in the sky dissipating against the warmth of the rising sun. The aroma of gourmet coffees and the stench of traffic mix into an unmistakable memory as you make your way along the busy city streets. A car whips in front of you, cutting you off on your turn, causing you to more than honk your disapproval. As you recover, heart pounding in your chest, you notice a filthy man sitting in the dewy median grass, a sign poised in his sun burnt hands that reads, “Will work for food”. You flick on the radio as you whip by, punch the first preset to pull up your favorite Christian Radio station and sing along with the last half of the latest contemporary tune as you continue your drive to work.
The commercial break on the station introduces a new online dating service that you could be a part of for a minimal monthly fee, then leads into a breaking news report of a bizarre man in Japan seen holding his new born baby over the railing of his third floor balcony with total disregard for its life. You become angry, almost immediately, and rightfully so! That guy is an idiot! You can’t believe how stupid and careless a father would have to be to do something like that! What a freak! You turn up the volume to accentuate the report. A commercial or two interrupts the broadcast and the news reporters move on to other matters. Now the homosexual community is addressed in their latest endeavor in fulfilling their anti-Christian agenda (huh?). It would appear that now they are working towards ratifying an Assembly of God bylaw to allow gay and lesbian pastors within the Assemblies! Their infiltration into the minds of every young child through forced lifestyle education in public schools wasn’t enough for them! They want more and more ground upon which to corrupt the souls of all good, honest Christians! Not to mention those who don’t know any better yet. Your anger at the news grows further still as the reports disclose information about transsexuals fighting for rights to use the restrooms of their intended genders, a black male (of course!) that went free after 5 years in the penitentiary, released on good behavior from seven charges of domestic violence, beating and raping and torturing young boys.
“This world is going straight to Hell!” you yell into the cab of your car, having first made certain the windows were rolled up. “The wicked won’t give up until they ruin everything for everyone! Freaks! Evil, wicked, pathetic beasts! How dare they think they can force their %^@# on me and my family!” You pity them and take the next right following growing traffic.
Then, as it seems always happens, the news turns towards the terrorist reports and threat levels from the Extremist Islamic Jihad initiated by Osama Bin Laden. You hear reports from Iraq where still more of those evil brown greasy people have strapped bombs to their children to send into American military ranks in hopes of taking out a few of “our boys” in the immolation. Car bombs! Ethiopian civil uprising! The black men of Darfur raping and torturing their own women! Starving all around the world that need “your” help. Donate! Give! Cries of hopelessness and desperate screams for help issue from the little box in your car dash without cessation and without mercy on your tender, Christian heart. You wish you could do more, so you do nothing at all, and wish you could just simply hear the next set of worship songs before you get to work where you don’t have to hear about all this crap!
The last red light before you arrive at your parking lot brings you to a halt. Your head and your heart is reeling from the bad news of the day, the ideas of the lost, the expectations of another mundane work day. You feel a bit more overwhelmed, and a bit more hopeless. “What can one person do against so much corruption?” you wonder. Which parts are corrupt and which are just a lie? You shake off the muck that just soaked your spirit, focus on the tasks of the day and prepare your emotions for the numbing effect of repetitive inactivity. Considering the news as you drink a sip from your steaming hot coffee and make yourself more comfortable in your office chair, you think to yourself, “God, I’m glad I’m not one of them.”
In that final moment, I believe God asks you, “How much do you hate Me?”
For a moment, let us review certain facts as absolute truth:
1: God loves you
2: God loves every Christian
3: God loves every sinner
4: God is love, mercy and truth
5: God is eternally unchanging, forever the same
6: As God once was, He now is
7: God loves perfectly, and unconditionally, all of His creation
8: God desires to spend eternity with all of His creation
9: God has left it up to us, as His children, to reach and teach the world for Him
10: You, as His child, should love Him as much as He loves you
These are some of the most basic Christian fundamentals, yet I am often forced to ask, “Why is it that the simplest and most important truths of God’s commands become the very last things we are willing to even acknowledge in our daily lives? How much do we actually hate people?”
Quite simply, if we do not possess love for certain things, then we must rely upon apathy and hatred to establish our viewpoints. As for Christians, apathy in the heart is precisely the same thing as hatred. The scriptures assert this very clearly. If we are unwilling to allow God to teach us to love, then we are taught by another more insidious instructor how to turn a deaf ear to the dying and the lost.
We are called by the name of Jesus to do only a very few things in this world: love the Lord your God with every aspect of your being, love one another, love your neighbors and go and make disciples of all nations; four parts of one assignment that should superimpose everything in our lives. Most Christians know these truths as facts of their new life in Christ. However, why are we not acting upon them? Once again, we must ponder, do we love God as much as we say, or do we really just hate people?
Jesus asked this question of His disciples: “Why do you call me Lord, and yet you do not do the things I say to do?” (Luke 6:46)
To see how Jesus looks at this apathetic stance, we can couple His question with this scripture, “Therefore to him who knows to do good yet does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:16)
Not caring, not loving, not doing good, is the same thing as sin to us. Sadly, most American contemporary Christians have a hard enough time dealing with parts two and three of the great command, making us unable to fulfill part four. This is not according to God’s plan. Far too many people in our church congregations today are far too filled with bitterness, resentfulness, unforgiveness and unfair judgments upon one another.
It has been said over and over again that when the church is doing the right thing that God is faithful to His people and provides for them. He in turn trusts them with greater measures of work and loving expressions toward the world He desires to reach. But our perfect, merciful God cannot honor sin, and when the heart of His church has turned upon itself, His grace and His trust in us wanes.
“For if you will not forgive, then neither will your Father in Heaven forgive you of your sins: (Mark 11:26)
The suffering of the church in America is due in large part to the egregious lack in these most crucial, basic principles. If we are having such a hard time not hating, blaming, cursing and condemning our brethren in Christ, is it any real wonder why we don’t see more miracles on Sunday mornings? We are incapable of moving into the richness of part three of the great command, loving your neighbor, because we are still struggling with each other; poised before all the world to be ridiculed as a kingdom divided against itself that cannot stand, stand, or stand again. If we hate our brothers, according to I John, then we live in darkness, and the truth and love of God is not within us. We stumble about in that darkness, unable to find our own way. Why should we then expect God to trust us to show others the way? The withered condition of the American Christian heart must be overcome in our church or our church will never again be effective in this world!
So how do we love that neighbor, and who is that neighbor? From the parable of the good Samaritan of Luke 10:30 we learn “Who is my neighbor?” But as the lawyer who asked that question struggled with the concept of loving one who was not a child of God, so we struggle today with those children of the world we hear of in the news. And much like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, we try to enforce the letter of the doctrine we exercise, yet ignore the heart of it by refusing to love first those who are hopelessly suffering their burdens of sin. We had best not tell the people of this lost world that Jesus loves them until we are first ready and able to love them first. How can you tell those freaks from the scene earlier that Jesus loves them when contempt for them is in your heart?
The position of the average, Sunday morning American Christian is a weak, sad, hopeless, powerless and pathetic one indeed. Its ineffective nature begins as hatred from within and ends in hatred for the people around us. Even the Christian news media finds it an easy task to propagate hatred among Christians for the sinners. We are guilty of condemnation and ignore the salvation prepared for “all nations”. Let not your heart cry, “I cannot tolerate, so I choose to hate everything you’re going through; so I leave you to fate and refuse to appreciate the treasure God sees in you.”
The secular view of the American church is one of a segregationalistic social group for injured people who inherently injure others. The lost society sees us as condemners, unrighteous judges, stalwarts for the progress of technology and society, ignorant and weak people who cannot deal with life without the crutch of a god to worship. We have been misrepresented and at the same time have failed to teach this world of what we truly believe in. The secular world sees the church as an instrument of penalty that strikes with vigor and hate against all things that impose upon its desire for a more comfortable world that supports its belief system. They have no reason to see us as being otherwise! They know from looking at our splits and divisions that we have no love for one another. How then can we convince them we love and care for them without a personal agenda hidden within?
Hatred has no place in true Christianity! Only love. We are given to hate one thing, and one thing only, and that is sin; the one thing that would separate us from the love of God, the one thing that hides within. Romans 8:38-39 gives us a perfect picture of this by listing all the things which “cannot” separate us from the love of God. It teaches us that all things external are incapable of this; it is however what is within us that surely can prevent His love from dwelling inside our hearts. God’s love is ever present for all of His creation, ever desiring to be shared, ever desiring to be embraced. Sin must still be judged by Him for there is no love for sin, nor will God honor sin with the grace of His presence. Sin will create a place within us where God is absent, opening windows to the destruction our enemy intends for us.
Far too often we find ourselves hating sin so much that our focus becomes skewed, and rather than hate sin any longer, we turn our hatred towards those who are actually sinning. All of this puts us right in line with the biblical Pharisees. We have no right to condemn, for we ourselves are in constant need of redemption and forgiveness. We cannot cast a stone at a person for we are still with sin.
“If we say that we are without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8)
So, most importantly we must ask ourselves, “Where is our love for God?”
We are to love God with the furthest capacity of every aspect of our beings, and love Him so much that we can no longer tolerate allowing God to suffer eternity without even one small portion of His precious creation. How do we do this when we read the story earlier and relate to it far too intimately? How can we say we love God when we out of fear, nervousness, apathy, hatred, refuse to share God’s love with those we know are without Him? We deny God of His joy by denying His creation of His love.
This is a call to action, for certain, but this does not mean for you to suddenly jump up and down on your Bible and scream repentance at every person that crosses your path. Jesus has told us that our greatest tool for winning the lost is living the life He prescribed for us.
“Let the spirit of truth dwell richly in you…” (Colossians 3:16)
Let the love of God fill your heart. Walk in the truth, reflecting the light of the love of Jesus Christ into this dying world like a mirror, proving the hope and the peace of God through its evidence in your life. Your testimony is your means of convincing people of the truth. Share it! Refuse to allow those around you to testify of your life as being nothing more than Church American Style. Instead, live the life by loving God, loving one another and loving the lost. Then you will have the right to tell them Jesus loves them too.
The next time you hear the radio or television news, consider this. Every victim you pity was victimized by a sinner, yet long before that sinner hurt that poor victim he was first also a victim of sin. When a man molests five children, do not condemn him in your heart. Force yourself to recognize that he is a victim of sin. The symptom of having been a victim of sin becomes a need to perpetuate that sin by harming others or even oneself.
When you hear of the acts of the lost, consider that it is not “those people” that are imposing upon you, but the spirit which governs them through their sin like puppets on strings. As you hear of the atrocities of this world, rage against the victories of Satan and win back those victories through compassion, understanding, and fervent prayer for all those who offend you. Those who love much are difficult to offend.
It is my admonition to you, beloved bride of Christ, to stop hating and forgive! Let your hate sin grow so much that you would desire that sinners be made free of its wicked grip upon them. But let that hate be focused on sin and never on the sinner. It’s the only God given right you have! Pray for that sinner for God’s sake, knowing that God loves him for what He sees in him. We do this out of our love for our Lord and out of obedience to His command.
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine…imagine the unfathomable sorrow of God on the day that He is forced to judge His creation, forced to watch as one by one His beloved creations fall away from His presence and into the flames of eternal darkness like the steam of hot tears dissipating. Never again will He know them, fellowship with them, embrace them in His infinitely loving arms.
Much to the antithesis of how the unsaved world sees Him, God has no desire to judge or punish or condemn any part of His creation. It is due to His perfect, unchanging nature that He must do so. God was not created. God is not an obsolete bludgeon of fear used to beat society into a moral standard or governmental aperture. He always was, is and always will be everything love, mercy, kindness, goodness, truth. Even in His judgment He is merciful and longsuffering of our weaknesses, and He has the power to fulfill His every promise of grace, both great and small.
Knowing all of this, how can I not be moved to action? How can I not be moved to love? God forgive my miserable soul for condemning this world full of people whom He loves so much. God bless us with the courage and the love to do as He’s commanded. Guard our hearts that they never condemn. Focus our vision, that it always seek Your joy and embrace freedom of those around us through Your salvation.
But now we ask, how do we take what we have learned and been reminded of here and actually use it? How do we put this into practice? I believe we can begin very simply, yet very effectively. I encourage everyone to try this. Everyone can do this!
Find one person that upsets you; someone you even hate (i.e., Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Salmon Rushdie, Britney Spears, Jerry Springer, or the neighbor next door that won’t stop partying in the middle of the night). Write that person’s name down on 4 pieces of paper in bold lettering. Tape one name sheet each to your refrigerator door, beside your alarm clock, the dashboard of your car, and one somewhere distinguishable at work (if feasible: if not, put the 4th sheet somewhere on your dinner table). At least once per day per four locations you have selected, meaning four times per day total, pray for the person you have named. Pray the simple prayer below, whether you like it or not, knowing this: God honors the honest prayer of an obedient heart regardless of eloquence more than the practiced prayer of a heart that doesn’t seek love.
Here’s the prayer: “Holy Father, loving and wonderful God who has saved me from Hell, who has paid the penalty of my sin so that He might share eternity with me, holy and beautiful is Your name to my heart, to my life and to this lost world around me. I pray for (name), this lost soul that I have hated (been upset with), that you will grant me the strength in my heart to forgive him/her. I know now that You love him/her, and just as you forgave me the great burden of my sins, You desire to see (name) forgiven of his/her sins. You desire to share eternity with (name). Forgive me for condemning (name), and honor my humble prayer now and save this precious soul for Your kingdom. Let Your will be done in his/her life, and in my life, because of this prayer. I love you more than I hate this person. I cannot bear to see you suffer the loss of this one which is precious to You. Send Your Holy Spirit to guide and change them. In the mighty name of Jesus of Nazareth I pray. Amen.”
How long should you pray the prayer above for that person? The answer is: Until he/she comes to know Jesus Christ as Lord and savior. Even if it takes years, do not give up hope.
Watch and marvel as God honors the effective prayer of the humble and begins to work in the life of the one you have chosen no longer to hate. Marvel inside yourself as God makes a beautiful change in you as well. The joy of the Lord is our strength. Your prayer above will put a smile on your Father’s face and a tear of joy in His eye.