I have a confession to make. I hate someone. There I said it; it is out in the open. There is someone in this world that I do not like. You are probably wondering why I am making such a big deal of confessing that I do not like someone. Because, let’s face it, we all have someone in our lives that just drives us nuts! They are our polar opposites! Sometimes, being in the same room with them irritates you to the point where if feels like there are bugs crawling on your skin. You are a motivated person who likes to do things, they are a not so motivated person who would much rather makeexcuses then actually accomplish any real work. They are the one that when you ask them to do something for you, because you are constantly bending over backwards for them, they tell you they will get around to it, and it never gets done. They are the one who no matter how hard you try; you cannot find it in your heart to actually have any respect for them whatsoever. The biggest problem of all is the fact that you have to be in a relationship with them. There is no getting out of it. You live with them, work with them, or just happen to be in the same family as them. You find in yourself that there is no love for this person- at all. This hate I feel for this person convicts me to my core. Why? Because I know that if I do not love my brother then I am in direct disobedience to God. If I cannot find a way to love this person, how in the world am I ever going to love God?
“For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” 1 John 3:11 ESV
How do I know that I do not love this person in my life? Because God showed me my true heart for this person, even though on the outside one would think that I did love them, on the inside my heart declared before God the opposite of love. My heart showed God that I hated my brother. For us to understand what it means to love one another I first think we must understand what it means to love. John is the disciple of love, so who better than he to teach us and show us our true hearts before the Lord?
“Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” 1 John 2:9
What is love then? What does love for our fellow brothers’ look like in the life of a believer? John tells us that if we are in the light then we understand spiritual truth. We understand the love of God for us, and the love of God for man. We understand and believe that Jesus died for every single person and every single sin upon the face of the earth. We understand spiritual things, if we are in the light. We not only understand these truths but we proclaim them. We live and breathe as Christians upon this earth. We go to church, serve in our bodies, fellowship with other believers, evangelize and help others to understand these same spiritual truths. John also tells us that if we say we are in the light and we hate our brother, then that light is false, and we are in truth, still in darkness.
The opposite of love is hate. I have had a few people tell me that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference, but for the context of what the Lord was showing me about the sin that is in my heart, we are going to say, for now, that hate is the opposite of love. (We can save the debate for another post!) What does God see as hate then? If hate is the opposite of love, what then is hate? Hate is to love someone less, or esteem them to be lower than you. Hate neither respects nor likes that person at all. Hate shows disdain. It looks at the person and says I don’t like you, I don’t respect you and I do not in any way have any love for you at all.
Love on the other hand. Love, as described by John in the above passage, means to be full of good will towards another. Love looks at that same person and says no matter whom you are, no matter what you do, I love you. This is the same love that God had for us when He gave His only begotten Son for us. It is the same love that Christ had as He willingly hung on the cross for us. This is the love that God commands us to have for our fellow brothers and sisters. Hate looks at all the faults and wrongs of the person before us and determines that they are not worthy enough to receive anything other than disdain from us. Hate says you are not worth my time.
When I thought about what the Lord was showing me in regards to love and its opposite of hate, I got a picture of Jesus in my head. There He was hanging on the cross, bleeding and suffering so willingly in my place. I pictured Him looking at me and saying to me, “You are worth it.” He did not look at me and list all my faults, all my sins; all the things I am that irritated Him. No, He looked past all of the wrong in me and saw only His blood flowing over me. He did not for one second while hanging on that cross; consider a single one of my sins. Instead He just nailed them to His cross and said, “I love you this much.” That is the love we are to have for our brother. That is what love looks like in the life of a believer. That, my friend, is love.
This humbled me to my core. Because I must admit that the person whom I have hate towards has lots of faults, and in my mind I play them over and over again. All I can do sometimes is think about how opposite we are and how much I wish, just once, that they would show me the same respect that I show them. My unloving thoughts, my hate filled feelings towards another person is not only a stumbling block for me, but it is, and can be a stumbling block for someone else. How can my hate for this person cause someone else to stumble? Because I don’t just think about this persons fault in my mind, I speak them to others, and they see that person the way I just presented them- as unworthy, someone I hate.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3
Paul explains to us that we are to be humble in our relationships and dealings with other people. We are to understand our deep need for a Savior and also understand that the person we hate needs Jesus just as badly as we do. When I focus on all that this person is not I fall into darkness. I become blind to my own need for forgiveness and my own faults and sins. I walk in darkness and am no longer walking in the light. When I start to focus on all that they are not and I begin to speak it to others, I not only trip up myself by my hate, but I lead others to follow my example as well! My disrespect for this person causes others to sin! When we have anger, negative thoughts, negative comments, complaining or grumbling against another brother or sister in the Lord, we are not walking in love. We are walking in hate and we are lost, we do not know where we are going, and neither do the ones who are following us. We become the blind leading the blind!
“If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” 1 John 1:6
All negative thoughts, the pointing the finger, the gossip, the complaining, the “venting” we do about others does not in any way exhibit goodwill toward our brother and is hate. No amount of complaining, grumbling, or dwelling on how terrible this person is will ever change them. Think about it for just a minute. How do we change? How do we change our behaviors, our attitudes and our lives? It is through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, and only when we allow Him to do the work in our hearts. It is only through the divine influence of God upon our lives that we change, so why do we think that our negative comments, our complaining and grumbling is going to change them? The only thing it does is show our true heart for that person, and prove to us that we are not walking in love but in hate.
“Whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked……We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” 1 John 2:6….3:14-16
If we love our brothers than we will be willing to look past all their wrongs, all their faults, all their sins and just love them anyway. We will be able to stand alongside them and pray for them. One thing that the Lord has shown me is that no matter what I say or what I do, no matter how many times I plead with Him to change this person in my life, He is only concerned with me. He knows this persons heart and He sees their life just as clearly as He sees mine. But the only one He is focused on when I stand before Him is mine. He asks me to keep His commandments. He asks me to obey His word. He asks me to love my brother. So how then are we to love? What does love look like in the life of a believer? What should love look like in me?
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29
If we love our brothers, our words will testify to it. No unwholesome, unfit or disrespecting words about that person will ever come from our mouths. We will not gossip about them, we will not complain about them, we will not allow our thoughts to dwell on their faults and sins. We will only speak what is edifying, what is encouraging and what produces grace, not only in our hearts, but in the hearts of all those who hear us.
What we allow our minds to focus on will be what comes out of the abundance of our hearts. If all I ever see is the sin, the faults, the person that they are not; then I will never see them as Christ saw them when He hung upon the Cross for them. We must stop focusing on what they are not and focus on Christ, who was and is and is to come. When those thoughts and those feelings of hate filled thoughts begin to rise in our minds and hearts, or when the anger begins to bubble up to the surface again, picture Christ. Picture Christ upon that Cross and walk in the light of true love for that person. Don’t let the seeds of bitterness, anger, evil speaking, gossip and pointing of the fingers take root in your heart again. But rather, let the love of Christ that was shed abroad from Calvary grow up into grace for all who will hear you. Therefore, let us love one another, even as Christ loved us. In Jesus name, amen and amen.