Lying on my back for the last 3 days over New Year (suffering from mild stomach flu) has been giving me plenty of time to think and pray about things, when not overcome by nauseous feelings!
I pray for things I hope for, concerning people I care for, and for those things and people I hate!
Yes, confession time, there are lots of things I hate! And by confession, I don’t mean things I repent of, but things that I embrace in prayer!!! It’s a self-revealing thing!
But what place has hate in a believer’s life?
A few months ago I brought this up on a Christian page on Facebook and was surprised by many of the comments. Surprised, not that they weren’t lacking in wisdom, but by their lack of biblical basis.
In brief terms they petitioned me to reject hate and embrace love for the subjects concerned. Yes I can affirm the wisdom of such advice since hatred so often destroys it’s host from within. A bit like lack of forgiveness which kills the self and not the object. Such wisdom I’m familiar with through my experience with those involved in psycho-therapeutic care and support.
But what was lacking was real advice about how to deal with evil in this world. It seemed like they were suggesting I just had to accept it an be all lovey-dovey to those perpetrating various horrors. That seems to foster an idea that the Christian life is about being a weak yes man, or even a ‘patsey’ to an abuser. Surely being a follower of Jesus means having more guts than that?
My regret at this point, is that I haven’t done much reading on the subject, mainly because of where I live and access to written material. Before I retired, as a bookseller, we had the title ‘Hate Work’ by David Augsburger on our sales shelf. Now I’m sorely disappointed that I never read it despite devouring several of his other titles. Hopefully I get a chance of borrowing it this summer and being further enlightened/corrected!
But I still have my bible, which in its electronic version enables easy searches for word studies. While I have no knowledge of Hebrew or Greek, I have to rely on the translators.
It’ll probably come as no surprise that the Hebrew Scriptures contain quite a lot of entries about hate. What has been more surprising has been the discovery of a definite stream of acceptable hatred exhibited there. Many references about the things that God hates, about hating evil with a perfect hatred. Such themes don’t get talked about much in Sunday sermons!
Of course, Jesus was all too familiar with such theology. Why else would he start talking “You have heard it said that you shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy”? It’s worth paying attention to how Jesus answers his own question!
And Walter Wink in his Engaging the Powers series has spent plenty of time highlighting the radical teaching of Jesus. Instead of hating we are to confront evil in a non-violent way that exposes the injustices in a way that cannot be avoided.
I might go further to say that a righteous hatred will seek to confront and transform the purpatrators yet without destruction.
Perhaps that is going a bit far because Jesus himself exhibited hatred and anger by name-calling “tell that fox…” “you den of vipers” “whitewashed tombs” etc. Not just name-calling; he also made a knotted whip, drove out sacrificial animals from the temple and overturned the tables of money chargers. That’s quite a few steps further than I could ever go myself or argue for!
Perhaps it’s enough to summarise things in the petition to “BE ANGRY AND SIN NOT’?
But this was supposed to be about Hope, as well as Hatred.
As I’ve thought and looked at. scriptures about God’s people and experience of hope, I’ve been surprised that very often the focus has not been on the end point, the final destination of hope. So often mentions of hope embrace the commitment to follow the ways of the Lord. To focus on THE JOURNEY rather than the destination. Sure the destination is what we want, but how we get there is ALL IMPORTANT!
I don’t understand prayer. The things that I pray for can seem impossible, and as it turns out, they often are! But perhaps the important thing is that we PERSIST in telling and asking God about what we care about most. God wants us to bring things to him, to show her (yes I’m mixing my genders) what we long for. We express our total reliance on the creator and it’s not dependent on the final destination. Again it seems to be about the journey. But thank God that we can see some final destinations!
So it seems to me that Hope and Hatred have perhaps more in common than meets the eye. Godly hatred acts like hope, by being faithful to the nature of Christ, to living in and practicing a non-violent obedience to the creator.
So in my terms, things like Antisemitism, Islamophobia, Zenophobia, Sexism, Bigotry, etc etc have no place in a believers life. No place for ‘hate-crimes’ for the faithful community. Perhaps the far-right evangelical world in the USA have a few more things to learn? As we all do.
So pray for those you love, for healing, success. Pray for those you hate, that they’ll be transformed by the great creator and start doing justice in place of their destruction, and, given the opportunity, confront in a transforming way. Speak truth to power; take a leaf out of Greta’s book and refuse to be intimidated.