The Jesus life is much more radical than most of us care to admit. In particular it means that as Christians, we don’t get to hate anyone (1 John 4:20).
Look at this in the context of other sins: for instance, if stealing is wrong, it is wrong to steal from anyone. You are a thief even if you steal from only one person. The fact that you don’t steal from most people doesn’t mean you’re not a thief. It just means you’re particular in your sin. If you steal only once a year, you are still a thief, even though you don’t steal the other 364 days of the year.
Or try telling a judge you’re not a murderer because you’ve only killed one person in the past twelve months… The infrequency of a sin doesn’t make it not a sin.
When Jesus says looking with lust makes you an adulterer even though you’ve only committed that sin in your heart, it follows that hating someone makes you a murderer. In the ethic of Jesus, if you would commit murder, you are a murderer.
So, if hate is wrong, it is wrong to hate anyone at any time. Focusing your hate instead of crucifying your hate is a double sin as it simply seeks to justify that which God condemns. Our faith calls us to want the best for everyone and to love others as Christ has loved us (John 13:34). God loved us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8), so even the hateful actions of others doesn’t give us license to hate them back.
If you love your family and your friends and those who agree with you but hate one, two, or ten people who disagree with you, you are, by definition, still a hater. All your love for the others who are like you doesn’t stop you from being a hater. Even if you hate someone because they hate others, you are still a hater. You are joining in their cause. Satan doesn’t really care why you hate. He just wants you to hate. Whether your hatred is based on personal grievance, prejudice, political persuasion, or anything else, you are still, by definition, a person of hate even if you hate just one person. And that makes you part of the problem, not part of the solution.
If you only hate Republicans or only hate Democrats, you are still a hater. If you only hate whites, or blacks, or men, or women, you still are a hater. No hatred is purer than any other hatred. Arguing that your hatred is justified for any reason is like members of the Ku Klux Klan arguing over who amongst them is most like Christ when their very membership, the cause that joins them, denies and mocks Christ our Creator. None of them are like Christ. There is no holy KKK alliance. And there is no holy hater.
When it comes to people, the only thing we should hate is hate. God wants everyone to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). For me to curse anyone, or wish ill on anyone, is for me to curse God’s plans, desires, and heart for that person. When hate enters my heart, I begin working against God’s will. I am no longer a God follower. I am, by definition, a God resister. Another word for this is antichrist.
That is why we must love love and hate hate, in every relationship and with every person.
“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister” (1 John 4:20-21).
One of the most effective methods of counteracting hate is intercessory prayer. Praying for God’s best for someone moves hate out of our hearts. I can’t ask God to bless someone with his light if I am obsessively cursing their darkness. I can’t ask God to prosper someone if I want to ruin someone. Either prayer or hate must die in my life; they can’t co-exist. So when I feel most aggrieved by someone, my self-defense (that’s the way I try to look at it) is to pray for them, that God would move them toward love instead of hatred, service instead of dominating, and a life of giving instead of controlling and destroying.
Why pray for the good of someone I naturally despise? It is far better for the kingdom of God, and ultimately even for me, if, instead of having one less enemy, I have a fellow brother or sister in Christ who is now working with me to see the advancement of God’s kingdom. Jesus told us to pray for more workers for his kingdom, not to destroy his enemies. Prayer is about the only place where my heart can make that turn. More than I want anyone to be destroyed, I want them to become a fellow worker in God’s kingdom.
Let’s follow through on what it means to be a true, devoted follower of Christ. That means learning to hate hate.