Why Hate is Good Thing . . . sometimes

There it is again. It just won’t go away. Every time you turn around, it’s there. Lurking. Leering. Inviting. As soon as you get rid of it, it just reincarnates. The more you try not to think about it, the stronger it pulls you. It’s timing is always terrible, and it ambushes you when you least expect it. You know what I’m talking about . . .

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War is hard enough when the enemy is another country. It’s hard enough when you’re fighting against another person. It’s more difficult still when it’s against an invisible enemy (Ephesians 6:12). But war against yourself? That’s something different altogether. 

“For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.” (Romans 7:22-23)

You know the war Paul’s talking about. When we come to Jesus, our ‘inner being’ is changed to ‘delight in God’s law’, but our body—our flesh—is still ‘programmed’ to sin. We’ve practiced sin for so long that it is simply part of our natural response. Maybe it’s deep seeded arrogance. Maybe it’s out-of-control insecurity. It could be gossip, lust, anger, bitterness, dishonesty . . . . We all know the list. And we all know our list. And according to Paul, it’s a war.

Notice that Paul didn’t say two things. He didn’t say that we’re all just ‘forgiven sinners’ who will never achieve any form of godliness this side of heaven. That’s just giving up on the war, and Paul isn’t recommending that. He also didn’t say that the war is already won—that we’re already perfect if we just have enough faith. Yes, ours sins are completely forgiven. Yes, “we have all we need for life and godliness.” But, he said that we’re at war . . . against ourselves.

In sports, we’re told that ‘the best offense is a good defense.’ I don’t know if it is really true, or if coaches just struggle to get kids excited about defense. But in the war against sin and Satan, it’s false. Sure, we’ve got to guard the home front, but when it comes to sin, a good defense doesn’t get us too far. We’ve all failed at the “don’t think about a pink elephant” trick, and yet we try to engage the same strategy with sin. Don’t think about how much you hate that person . . . Don’t think about that girl . . . Quit being so #@!& angry! . . . It’s a losing battle, isn’t it? The more I try not to sin, the more I think about it. 

In Luke 6, Jesus says “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” The command itself is worth noting, but did you catch the strategy? He says, “Give up on trying to ‘not hate’ your enemies. Turn it over. Love them.” I wonder if that same strategy applies to other areas of sin. Give up on trying to ‘not gossip’—spend your energy finding something uplifting to say. Give up on trying to ‘not be angry’—find a way to express genuine kindness. Give up on trying to ‘not be proud’—find a way to serve someone. Give up on trying to ‘not be greedy’—give your money away. 

Give up on trying not to sin—love! The war within us is a war of competing loves. Merely subduing our bad loves doesn’t work (love of self, love of power, love of wisdom, love of riches). We must replace those loves with proper love—play offense!

Jesus makes it very clear that love and hate work together (Matthew 6:24). In our pluralistic culture, we don’t like such talk as “You must love the one and hate the other.” But that’s how the war goes. We can’t ‘dislike’ sin and love God. It doesn’t work to ‘want to get rid of’ sin and love God. Our affections for God demand a hatred of sin.

For the past couple of years, I’ve slowly gotten in the habit of asking God to help me hate my habitual sin. It’s an amazingly effective prayer! And, I’ve been intrigued by how God causes me to hate my sin. He always draws me to see the relational consequences of my sin—in other words, how my sin is hurting those I love.

Am I struggling with pride? He’ll show me where my arrogance crippled vital friendships. Am I struggling with anger? He’ll show me episodes in recent weeks where my hard-hearted silence shredded close friends. Am I struggling with my words? He’ll show me how my simmering irritation is wounding those whom I count dear.

Don’t you hate it when you realize that you have caused a major reaction by some stupid thing you’ve said or done? You want to turn back the clock, vow you’ll remember not to do that again—especially in marriage when you used to having the sweetness of oneness and you’ve wrecked it for a day or two. Aaahhh, so painful! It’s amazing how quickly I hate sin when I see the immediate relational consequences!

The war goes on. Relief won’t come until heaven. In the meantime, we must remember that sin is a relational problem, and a love problem, which demands relational and love solutions. Guard your heart (Prov 4:23). Wash it in the Bible (Eph 5:26). Let it be made holy by the Word (John 17:17). Hate sin. And love!

Thoughts?  Click here: Comments

  • JEM

    So good… so true!

  • Michelle Richards

    Thanks for the insight, Rob. I shared part of this blog tonight with the ‘Transforming Your Heart’ Bible class that I attend. It was quite fitting and well received. FYI, Dr. Blom is the teacher of the class.

    • That’s great! Sounds like a good title for a course. Thanks for passing on these thoughts . . . they were ‘passed on’ to me!

  • Jessica Osborne

    Thanks for sharing, Rob! Great thoughts. I’m going to start praying that prayer 🙂

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