Beckett: Pastoral Thoughts – Hatred Is Evil (Leviticus 19:17)

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbour, lest you incur sin because of him.”

Leviticus 19:17

The world is undoubtedly filled with hate. Liberals accuse conservative (orthodox) Christians of hating the LGBT community, thus accusing us of homophobia and transphobia. It is certainly true that some Christians harbour hatred toward them, in which case I would doubt the authenticity of their Christianity since to hate is to be a murderer and no murderer has eternal life residing within them (1 John 3:15), and a Christian who does not love does not abide in God since God is love (1 John 4:7-16). Whoever says they love God but hates someone is a liar (1 John 4:19-20). Yet even though this is true in some cases, it is wrong to say this is true of all Christians.

Not all Christians are hateful who confess with the Scriptures that LGBT behaviours and actions are sinful; we are merely confessing the Word of God. Furthermore, we are not homophobic or transphobic. Rather, we love them enough to give them the Law that they are living in sin and the Gospel to receive the forgiveness of their sins, just as we do with literally every other sin. Someone who is a compulsive liar or a kleptomaniac or is promiscuous is just as sinful and in need of forgiveness as someone in the LGBT community. The real homophobics and transphobics are those who are too afraid of these people to tell them that their unrepentant sin can damn them to Hell and are therefore in dire need of the grace of God in the Gospel. If you love someone, you don’t leave them in their sin to perish (see John 8:10-11). Warning someone of their sin is not hateful; it is one of the most loving things you can do. Sadly, I will be hated by both sides for saying such a thing.

There is also hate in race relations, whether this be the bickering between Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter or just outright racism. The Black Lives Matter group often hate police officers and those who support them; the Blue Lives Matter group often hate those in the Black Lives Matter “protests” and there may even be a few racists in the group.

One time on Twitter I posted a photo of my wife and I on our wedding day and some racists commented saying how our interracial marriage is sinful and that we will have ugly babies, among other repugnant things. Even in the 21st century, I’m still hated for the colour of my skin. But as I’ve been dealing with racism my entire life, I no longer get angry at these people. Rather, I pity them for being filled with so much hatred for another human being they’ve never met. That is true of anyone, whether that be hating someone for the colour of their skin, or their political stance, or their identity suffering, or whatever it is.

Just as with the Ten Commandments, we know this command not to hate in the Old Testament still stands because Jesus reaffirms it, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44). This is easier said than done, of course, but Christ’s command still holds.

So then, what should we do if we find ourselves harbouring hatred toward someone? Repent, and pray for your enemy. Repent of your hatred and pray also that God change your heart, which only He can do by His Spirit. Pray also for this person you’ve deemed to be an enemy worthy of your hate. Pray for their salvation, for their repentance, for their well-being, and so on. You will find that as you pray for someone, your heart becomes softer toward them, for prayer is an intimate act with the Lord and His Spirit who softens hearts with His grace. Pray not only for God to change your heart but pray also for how you might better exemplify love for this neighbour of yours.

There are many ways in which you can do this, but I think one way worth mentioning is to affirm the imago Dei (image of God) in the person. Whether that person is someone of another race, identifies with LGBT, supports an opposing political party, or whatever it is, think: Do I argue with them? Do I yell at them for not understanding God’s Word correctly? Do I pound away on my keyboard to a random strange online a manifesto of their condemnation?

In his book, Wonderfully Made, John Kleinig’s basic premise is to live by example rather than argument. Regarding the imago Dei, he writes, “Underneath the other layers of identity, we all share the same common human identity as people who have been made in God’s image. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we all share the same humanity, an innate identity that is granted in our conception that cannot be taken away from us… That foundational identity does not threaten the other layers of identity; instead, it confirms them all by giving each its proper due in its proper place in the hierarchy of identity.”[1]

In other words, our common human identity is being created in God’s image, which informs and shapes the other facets of our identity, especially in Christ via Baptism where our humanity is fully restored to God’s image since, being baptised into Christ (Romans 6:3), we are baptised into He who is the perfect image of God (Colossians 1:15). So, for example, as an Afro-Puerto Rican, I see how Christ has redeemed my ethnic culture in His perfect humanity (e.g., Christ came to exalt and redeem the marginalised and all races; see the Gospel of Luke). As a man and a husband, God’s Word informs me on how to be a man and husband, especially in Christ who is the perfect Man and perfect Groom. Who God has made me in my Baptism informs and shapes how I relate to other people as employee, shopper, patron, spouse, stranger, a man, son, brother, etc.

Moreover, we not only affirm the imago Dei in ourselves but especially in others. To live by example of the imago Dei is to affirm the image of God in them. This does not mean you approve their sin, for that is not love (again, see John 8:10-11; see also 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Rather, I treat them respectfully as a human being in God’s holy and precious image just as I am, and I urge them toward the waters of Holy Baptism wherein they die to their sins (Romans 6:6-23). I do not treat them like scum. Rather, I treat them with the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Living by the example of the Holy Spirit produces far holier fruit than the mouldy fruit of heated arguments that more often than not become bitter like bad apples.

By first recognising the inherent dignity of the image of God in the person we might hate and loving them with the fruit of the Holy Spirit, we will be better equipped to testify that we are disciples of Christ by our love (John 13:35) and, furthermore, to live at peace with others.

[1] John W. Kleinig, Wonderfully Made (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2021), 55-56.

Theology Terms Used

  • Image of God: in the wide sense, man is a rational being; in the narrow sense, original righteousness and knowledge of God (the latter of which was lost at the Fall of Man). Both of these distinguish us from animals, especially the former as post-Fall creatures.

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