Hatred and God’s People6 min read
John says in his first epistle, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” In general disposition, true people of God will find more comfort with true people of God – those of like precious faith – than with the world. Because our bond is in Christ, we are united to love one another with a pure heart fervently. Yet there is still that within us which resists unadulterated love, which is the flesh and the hatred it brings. None are excluded from tendencies to despise others. None are exempt from the capacity to destroy that which God has bound together, namely, His people. Hatred and hostility are not two unattainable sins for us that only “the wicked” are guilty of: we need this study.
Hatred: What is it, and how does it appear?
First of all, what is the biblical definition of hatred? Well, in this specific passage, the word used is echthrai, a Greek plural word meaning “enmities.” In fact, Galatians five is the only chapter which translates this word “hatred.” Every other passage translates the word “enmity.” Here, however, it is not wrong to read it “hatred,” because the passage deals with active manifestation of that which exists already within. Hatred is the evidence of the disposition of the heart, which is enmity. An example is in Romans 1:30 in which the wicked are called active “haters of God” because of their standing, which was that “their foolish heart was darkened” and positionally at enmity with God. Enmity is the position: hatred (or hostility) is the action that readily stems from it.
So then, in identifying it in our lives, we should first of all start with our attitudes before considering our actions. What is your general attitude toward believers? Do you hold them dear to your heart? Are they precious to you, because they are Christ’s? A very practical way of answering this question would be to determine what we enjoy more: being with Christians or being with the world. Even if the world is not causing us to compromise in a forceful, open way, it should not bring us pleasure because of its very nature.
But more specifically, are there individual believers who you not only esteem as “second class Christians” but have trouble appreciating, complimenting, and thinking positively about? Dear believer, these are the beginnings of hatred, and it will inevitably come if not dealt with. When our common disposition toward another believer is negative, our common behaviour will be also. It will be a light thing in our eyes to gossip, insult, or go without weeks and months without acknowledging them at the assembly meetings (or at family gatherings). It doesn’t matter what we think about these things: God has spoken, and He declares them to be sin. You may think you are holy because of your articulate condemnations of those who don’t suit your preferences, but if all you can do is condemn and not pray heartily for a certain person then you are the one with the problem. With that in mind, examining our hearts, can it be said that we have sinned lately? Let us beware that such attitudes are destructive in nature. They may not destroy the assembly in itself – though they most certainly can – but they inevitably will destroy the spirit of the assembly and what it means to be united in Christ.
The Root of the Problem
Most likely we find ourselves lacking in at least one aspect of hostility, whether it be in our words, in our thoughts, or in our fellowship. However, we probably have lost sight, if we are in this position, of where it started. What is the root of the problem? If we can find this, we can deal with the issue before it gets out of hand.
- Enmity and hostility come by pride. Often we find ourselves at odds with another believer or inappropriately degrading them, because we see them as not being worthy of our time, effort, grace, or recognition. It is a great sin to invade our space, so we think. An attitude that puts down God’s people as if secondary in worth is an attitude of pride that labels us as primary in worth. If we could only cut off our arrogance before enmity arises, many of the issues we face today could be avoided.
- Enmity and hostility come by hurt. When offense comes, we can do one of two things: we can forgive, forgive, and forgive again, or we can grow in bitterness. “I deserve to be angry: they violated my rights” is our reasoning. But it is not Scriptural reasoning. Offense will always come. The question is how we will deal with it. If we can be on active guard when offense strikes, we could prevent hostility by a Biblical response to it. The pain certainly is real, but the need for wisdom trumps our so-called “right to be angry.”
- Enmity and hostility arise by lack of Biblical convictions. Sound doctrine is helpful with these subjects, because it focuses our hearts to the Truth. If we would read our Bibles, we would find the dignity stamped on personal sonship, and we would not be so quick to divide believers into different classes. We would also find in Scripture the proper way to handle relationships: in some situations confrontation is necessary; in others, gracious and humble prayer is the only answer; but in no situation does Scripture allocate hostility of any kind toward God’s people or to unbelievers. The Lord Jesus rebuked many times, but it was never in His heart to do those people harm. There must be a balance: there must be godly convictions in our hearts. Sound teaching is an effective preservative. It would be most helpful if we started learning it.
In conclusion, we have seen the danger of hatred and our need to watch for it. But presently, how can we deal with it in our hearts.
- We can first of all learn to pray for those souls whom we tend to esteem less than we should. This forces us to look out for their best interest.
- Philippians 2:3 says “Let nothing be done through strive or vainglory: but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem one another better than themselves.” In a very practical way, learn to think of the needs/convenience of others as being more important than your own. Even if you have trouble thinking that way, acting according to this standard will produce a correct attitude in time.
- Next time you have opportunity to gossip or insult, even though it might seem funny, it would be best to pray for them at that moment instead, rather than insulting them behind their backs.
- Learn to appreciate the positional bond God’s people have in Christ, and act that out by surrounding yourself by them. Enjoy your assembly.
- If there is a person you have neglected fellowship with (not for legitimate reasons), be sure to acknowledge him. Be a Christian who appreciates other Christians.
- Study the example of Christ: He is the supreme pattern. First John 3:14 says “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down lives for the brethren.”