How many times have you done what you genuinely believed was best for your kids or spouse—your entire motivation was their well-being—and they responded with, “Why do you hate me?”
It’s excruciating to exhibit love and have the person you love respond with charges of hate.
You do something for your spouse, or say something to your spouse, and in your heart of hearts your motivation is pure love. You want their best. And your spouse acts as if you’re just plain mean. (While Lisa and I have plenty of faults, I don’t think my wife has ever treated me this way—at least, I can’t remember if she has. But I’ve talked to plenty of couples who must endure this with each other.)
When your kids and your spouse agree, and you’re the only one standing, it’s even worse. I hope that never happens in your home, but I’ve heard accounts.
It might be a friend, an in-law, or a fellow employee. If you’re facing a situation like this, it may encourage you to know you’re not alone. Israel was enslaved by Egypt for 400 years when God called Moses to deliver them from slavery. About six weeks after leaving Egypt, and just a few weeks after witnessing an amazing miracle (walking through the Red Sea), the people got hungry. Their relatively few days of hunger made them forget all about the centuries of slavery:
“The whole congregation of the Israelites complained about Moses…” (Exodus 16:2)
The whole congregation. Everyone hated him. And then they even questioned his motives: “You have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
Yeah, see, Moses was this rich young prince who decided he’d prefer to leave the palace only so that he could starve the Hebrews. Imagine how Moses must have heard this: “You’re just a genocidal maniac.” “We’d rather follow Pharaoh than you.” “We prefer Egypt’s slavery to your freedom.”
Moses gave up so much, he put up with so much, and the people’s “gratitude” wasn’t just tepid; it was vile, degrading, and angry.
When you follow God, you can’t assume that people will think you’re motivated by love for Him and love for others. Many times, your love will be called hate.
So what do we do?
First, we can’t allow charges of hatred to keep us from loving with the truth. God is love and God is truth. To sacrifice truth in the name of love is tantamount to sacrificing food in the name of feeding.
Second, we appeal to a higher authority
While I’m not suggesting that what I’m about to say will “work,” it’s still an important strategy: Moses and Aaron spoke back to Israel and said, “What are we, that you complain against us?” They added, “Your complaining is not against us, but against the Lord.” (vv. 7-8)
Point out to your children or spouse the biblical principle you’re standing on. “This isn’t about me. This is what the Bible says. Your issue is with God, not with me agreeing with Him.”
Don’t let this become about you. It’s not your opinion that counts. It’s not whether you are respected (in this instance). You’re making your appeal to a higher power.
Nobody will go to hell for disagreeing with me; if I’m in the wrong, they’ll be commended for it! But anyone who disagrees with God risks facing unimaginable horror. What is up ahead for them is far, far worse than any pain I might feel over their current attitude toward me. We need to be more concerned about the state of their souls than we are about whether they think we’re nice or polite or intelligent or politely tolerant.
The Bible speaks of sin clouding a person’s judgment and destroying their understanding. If someone has given themselves over to sin, in that area they may have certain blind spots where they wouldn’t recognize love if it bit them on the nose until they bled.
In your family, with a spouse or children, keep your appeal tied to Scripture. When I’m working with younger premarried couples, certain issues may arise where people no longer accept the Bible’s clear teaching. I’ve had to say, “You can disagree with me because I agree with the Bible, but that means what you have to wrestle with is the Bible. I just want you to show me how I’m misunderstanding the Bible if you think I am.”
That puts the conversation on an entirely different plane. (I fully recognize that many no longer accept the Bible as their authority, but that’s a different discussion altogether.)
Remember: it’s not about you. It’s about Him. If I’m reading the Bible in error, I want to be corrected. But if the person I’m talking to has a problem with the Bible, I have to expect and accept that they are going to have a problem with me. That’s just basic Christian discipleship.
Jesus said people will hate us even while accusing us of hate because that’s the way they treated Him. We love, and they call it hate. They hate, yet call it love. Don’t be surprised when that comes true in your own life. We’ve been warned!