Hate, A Neglected Christian Virtue & Prayer

Hate doesn’t normally come up in the list of Christian virtues. But it should.

We are to hate what is evil. This is a command, and a neglected one at that. God through the prophet Amos called his people to: “Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts” (Amos 5:15). Notice how hating evil relates to justice. Justice requires hating injustice. There is no passivity here. Evil is not to be tolerated. It is to be hated. So much for tolerance.

We must pray our hate.

Now, this is Old Testament stuff, right? No. It is for the Christian. In fact, hate follows love. Paul knew this connection well. He could speak of love in one sentence and in the very next one mention hate: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9).

Christians are not to take the sword. Jesus told Peter to put his away. However, Christians are still called to hate. If you are like me, you’ve experienced a desensitizing of evil. We can blame TV or video games. Or we can blame it on overly optimistic, smiley-faced, sentimental Christianity. But fundamentally we can blame a low view of God.

We don’t hate like we should because we don’t love like we should. To love God, as he is revealed in Scripture, is to love a God of justice and a God who will one day punish his enemies and banish the curse from the new heavens and earth wherever it may lay. Hatred of evil requires delight in the justice of God—both his restorative justice and his retributive justice. Evangelicals are giddy on the restorative justice of God—and we should be—but we tend to ignore his retributive justice. We love little and hate little because we ignore God in his fullness, especially his holiness.

We don’t hate like we should because we don’t love like we should.

I started thinking about this in reading Psalm 139 and how David prays his hate. This Psalm is usually taught in Sunday School, but we make sure to edit out all that slaying and hating enemies stuff near the end of the Psalm. We like the very end. The just me and God part, but not the speaking out on matters of public injustice part.

We are to hate all that God hates, not just what the world wants us to hate. Our society hates environmental injustice and hates racial injustice, and we should do the same. But we must go further and not remain silent on other things that God hates. We tend to want justice for giraffes more than we do unborn human embryos–which this Psalm says, God himself spends time carefully knitting together (119:15-16). So we must acquire a hatred given by God and not just by culture. We must pray for the hate we do not feel.

We must pray for the hate we do not feel.

In some ways, though it must be said with proper nuance, we hate too little and demonstrate that we do not love enough. The Psalms don’t let us do this. Psalmists like David cry out regularly for evildoers to be brought to justice. Complacency is far removed from the songs of these worshippers. They hate that there are victims in the world and that injustice seems to reign. Eugene Peterson, in Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer, writes,

Just as hurt is the usual human experience that brings us to our knees praying for help, provoking the realization that we need God, so hate is frequently the human experience that brings us to our feet praying for justice, catalyzing our concern for the terrible violations against life all around us. Hate is often the first sign that we care. If we are far gone in complacency, it is often the only emotion with enough velocity to penetrate our protective smugness and draw red blood…

Hate, prayed, takes our lives to bedrock where the foundations of justice are being laid. (99-100, 101).

We must pray our hate. What else are you going to do with it? One of the reasons prayer is impotent is because we sanitize what we say to God. But he can handle it. We think a high view of the sovereignty of God, means a passive, emotionless, stoic prayer. It doesn’t. Psalm 139 demonstrates this: David knows all his days were planned by God before they happened in verse 16 and yet he channels his hate in prayer in verses 19-22.

Now, you pray yours. Pray your hate.

We can talk theodicy, but do we pray it? Enough of philosophizing and theologizing alone.

Don’t vent it on other people, but vent it on God. We can theologize about the problem of evil, but we should also pray about this problem. Part of the prayer of the kingdom is praying our hate. Asking for the Father’s kingdom to come, implies the demolishing of the kingdoms of this world.

Anger at the state of the world, even anger at God, is expressed in the Psalms (and Prophets). There is a wrestling with God that needs to characterize more of Christian prayer. We can talk theodicy, but do we pray it? Enough of philosophizing and theologizing alone. True prayer does more than think. It emotes and feels. The Psalms liberate us to be human and teach us to pray the way we should. They show us what the relationship of God with believers who have gone before us looked like.

Finally, our hate must also be gospel-shaped. One thing we learn is that God came as a man in the person of Jesus of Nazareth to die for his enemies. Jesus was slain in the place of the wicked. Therefore we love victims by hating what victimized them–naming and identifying evil personally and publicly–but we also pray for the salvation of perpetrators. Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of the perpetrators that crucified him, and we should pray for those who have victimized us and ones we love. We love our neighbors and we love God in his holy justice by telling the ungodly the good news of the cross—where divine love and justice kiss—and abhorring the evil that creates victims of all kinds and crucified our sinless Savior. Christians hate evil and like their Savior love their enemies even in the face of their own death.

So Christian, pray your hatred and remember genuine Christian love hates.

Jesus, the Glad

Theologian B.B. Warfield, in his wonderful article “The Emotional Life of our Lord”, makes the case that Jesus was not primarily a man of sorrows, but a man of joy. It is true that the gospels do not attribute any laughter to him, but you got to think he snickered as he snacked on broiled fish in his resurrected body to stun marveling disciples at his side.

This shouldn’t be all that surprising when we consider that the first miracle he did was increase the wine supply at a wedding party, and two of the last miracles he did on earth were raise from the dead and give depressed fishermen after a night without a catch a net full of fish. Furthermore, he made fun of and regularly rebuked serious Pharisees and made care-free children the models of the kingdom.

Warfield gives several other reasons that describe Christ’s emotional life as one of great joy.

We call our Lord “the Man of Sorrows,” and the designation is obviously appropriate for one who came into the world to bear the sins of men and to give his life a ransom for many. It is, however, not a designation which is applied to Christ in the New Testament, and even in the Prophet (Is. liii. 3) it may very well refer rather to the objective afflictions of the righteous servant than to his subjective distresses.76 In any event we must bear in mind that our Lord did not come into the world to be broken by the power of sin and death, but to break it. He came as a conqueror with the gladness of the imminent victory in his heart; for the joy set before him he was able to endure the cross, despising shame (Heb. xii. 2). And as he did not prosecute his work in doubt of the issue, neither did he prosecute it hesitantly as to its methods. He rather (so we are told, Lk. x. 21) “exulted in the Holy Spirit” as he contemplated the ways of God in bringing many sons to glory. The word is a strong one and conveys the idea of exuberant gladness, a gladness which fills the heart;77 and it is intimated that, on this occasion at least, this exultation was a product in Christ — and therefore in his human nature — of the operations of the Holy Spirit,78 whom we must suppose to have been always working in the human soul of Christ, sustaining and strengthening it. It cannot be supposed that, this particular occasion alone being excepted, Jesus prosecuted his work on earth in a state of mental depression. His advent into the world was announced as “good tidings of great joy” (Lk. ii. 10), and the tidings which he himself proclaimed were “the good tidings” by way of eminence. It is conceivable that he went about proclaiming them with a “sad countenance” (Mt. vi. 16)? It is misleading then to say merely, with Jeremy Taylor, “We never read that Jesus laughed and but once that he rejoiced in spirit.”79 We do read that, in contrast with John the Baptist, he came “eating and drinking,” and accordingly was malignantly called “a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners” (Mt. xi. 19; Lk. vii. 34) ; and this certainly does not encourage us to think of his demeanor at least as habitually sorrowful.

Jesus of Nazareth was and remains Jesus, the glad not Jesus, the sad. And if this is true, followers of Jesus have plenty of reasons to be glad too.

[Source: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/emotionallife.html]

Waiting to Feel Better: The Greatest Snare in the Christian Life

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his typical hyperbolic preaching style, explains how important it is for Christians to know who they are:

“The whole matter of putting on the new man is in essence the application of truth to ourselves. It is the most important thing that one can ever discover in the Christian life. The real secret of Christian living is to discover the art of talking to yourself. We must talk to ourselves, we must preach to ourselves, and we must take truth and apply it to ourselves, and keep on doing so. That is the putting on of the new man. We have to hammer away at ourselves until we have really convinced ourselves. In other words, this is not something that you wait for passively. If you wait until you feel like the new man it will probably never happen. We must be active in this. There is no greater snare in the Christian life than to entertain the idea of waiting until we feel better, and of then putting on the new man. On the contrary, we have got to go on telling ourselves the new man is already in us. In his Epistle to the Romans the Apostle Paul says, ‘Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, and alive unto God’ (6:11).” Darkness and Light, An Exposition of Ephesians 4:17-5:17, 191-192

A Bent Heart: Faithfulness Follows Your Heart

I came across an insightful phrase about King Solomon in chapter eleven of the first book of Kings. After the writer lists Solomon’s huge harem of wives and concubines he says that Solomon’s “wives bent his heart” (11:3, see note in NET Bible). They “shifted his allegiance to other gods” so that he was no longer “wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord his God, as his father David had been” (11:4).

Solomon’s life started full of wisdom and in faithfulness to God, but did not last. Even though God had visited him twice and warned him to not worship other gods, over the years his heart slowly became divided as the idol of lust and the desires of his wives won his affections away from the Lord God of Israel to the detestable gods of the surrounding nations.

How did this happen? How did his heart get bent? Verse one of this chapter answers that question. The king “fell in love with many foreign women”. His faithfulness went to whom he fell in love with, and for Solomon that was women.

Yours and mine will too.

As the saying goes past performance is not a guarantee of future results, so too present faithfulness is not a guarantee of future faithfulness. Our future faithfulness follows our present affections. If you are married and your heart begins to be won over by someone else other than your spouse eventually, if you continue to “follow your heart”, you will be unfaithful to your spouse. Adultery and unfaithfulness do not happen overnight. It is a slow progression of a bending heart away from one’s covenant partner to another.

It is the same way with God.

Spiritual adultery and idolatry start with misplaced affections. What is your heart bending toward? What/Whom are you falling in love with?

Watch over your heart. And pray the prayer of Solomon’s father who knew the consequences of a bent heart all too well:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (Ps. 51:10)

Wherever your heart goes your faithfulness will follow.

5 Encouragements from Predestination

I preached on predestination recently at our local church (audio here) because Pastor Bob Hapgood has been scaling the Kilimanjaro that is Romans 9, and one of the things I tried to do was show how encouraging this doctrine is to those who trust Jesus. Often predestination and election get treated as something meant for controversy and debate or as a mystery to be pretty much left alone and avoided. This is a sad, and, in my opinion, weakens the church because of the tendency to either dodge or debate this glorious aspect of its identity.

Predestination should enhance your joy not disturb it.

I’m convinced that if you ignore or just argue about the doctrine of predestination you will miss out on one of God’s ways of blessing you (Eph. 1:3). The first several verses of Ephesians 1 unpack predestination in order to show that it is a part of the multifaceted ways that God has blessed you in Jesus Christ. Therefore predestination should enhance your joy not disturb it. What follows are a few of the many encouragements for Christians to draw from the reality that God predestines:

1. God chose you because he loved you. Ephesians 1:4-5, in the ESV translation, says, “in love God predestined”. Therefore predestination is motivated by love. This means that God’s choice of you derives from his love for you. Sovereign choice doesn’t detract from God’s love it is the fountainhead of God’s love. We don’t go deeper into love by sidestepping predestination. We go deeper into love by diving into its deeps. We are familiar with the fact that God so loved the world that he gave his Beloved Son, but need to become more familiar with the fact that God so loved the world that he predestined adopted sons in the Beloved from all eternity (Eph. 1:5).

2. You are a gift of love from the Father to the Son. John 17 reveals that your salvation was planned in the heart and mind of the Triune God before there ever was a you (17:2, 24). This means that God’s love for you is bigger than you. It is tied to the love for which the Father has for his Son. And the reason this is encouraging is because the size of God’s love for you is not to be gauged by his love for you but by his love for Jesus. From his very own mouth, Jesus said, “[Father] you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (17:23). The astonishment that we should feel at being loved by God becomes even more mind-blowing because God’s love for us flows in the same stream as God’s love for God.

3. Your present sins may be many but your future sinlessness is certain. Romans 8:29 tells us that we have been “predestined to be conformed to the image of [Jesus].” As a son of God, you are guaranteed one day to look like the Son of God. Therefore you fight sin in hope not in defeated depression. Your Christlikeness is not dependent upon your performance but upon God’s predestination.

Your Christlikeness is not dependent upon your performance but upon God’s predestination.

4. Your very identity is “elect” because God has named you that. The apostle Peter begins his letter to those in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Bithynia by calling them “God’s elect” (1 Pe. 1:1). Contemporary Christians don’t normally go around calling each other “predestined” or “elect” or “chosen” or “called”, but there is no reason why we shouldn’t. In fact, if we were named this by God, what stops us from calling each other that? What kind of massive encouragement would it bring to believers to have spoken over their lives the fact that God has picked them? Psychologically we see in various social situations that many times a person lives up to what they are called to. If you are called “loser”, “failure”, even “sinner”, and the like over and over again you will probably live up to it. If you trust Jesus, you can be confident that God has given you a new name. You have been chosen. God has called you something that you are not in and of yourself to make you something that you are in him. So act like it. Be who you are. Be what you have been called to be. Live up to your name.

The little phrase “to the praise of the glory of God’s grace” helps us see that one of the best ways to do everything to the glory of God is to do everything celebrating and enjoying God’s grace.

5. God’s predestination of you enables you to live life to the highest purpose of your existence, namely, “to praise of the glory of [God’s] grace” (1:6). All of us have heard the phrase “do everything to the glory of God” and too often it becomes a cliché that means nothing in practice. The little phrase “to the praise of the glory of God’s grace” helps us see that one of the best ways to do everything to the glory of God is to do everything celebrating and enjoying God’s grace. Predestination has a unique way of drawing this out of us because it drowns out our propensity toward boasting and relying upon works and establishes the fact that it flows from the sovereign heart of God uninfluenced by human decision and work. Election strips us from taking one ounce of salvation and putting it in our portfolio and propels us into praising God exclusively for everything. Predestination is exceptional at displaying that every piece of salvation is gift, and one’s who have been given such a great gift will joyfully praise and glorify the Giver. We live “to the praise of the glory of the grace of God” when we recognize that predestination is all of grace and for God’s glory.

Be encouraged! Predestination is meant to bedazzle your heart not just boggle your mind.

“He saw it, He loved it, He ate it”: Maurice Sendak, the Prophet Jeremiah, & the Bible

In an interview with NPR’s Terry Gross, the late famed author of children’s books, Maurice Sendak, who is probably most widely known for Where the Wild Things Are, gives this wonderful anecdote of correspondence with a young child:

Terry Gross: Can you share some of your favorite comments from your readers that you’ve gotten over the years?

Maurice Sendak: Oh, there’s so many. Can I give you just one that I really like? It was from a little boy. He sent me a charming card with a little drawing. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters–sometimes very hastily–but this one I lingered over. I sent him a postcard and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim, I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”

[Source:http://nprfreshair.tumblr.com/post/22652290421/hwentworth-internets-over-people-maurice]

Little Jim was so pleased with his beloved author’s artistic reply he couldn’t restrain himself from chomping down the whole thing. It was that good.

This reminded me of the prophet Jeremiah and his childlike response to receiving words from the Author of the entire universe.

“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.” (Jeremiah 15:16)

Jeremiah found God’s words, loved them, and ate them. They were the very joy and delight of his heart.

When is the last time you’ve viewed Bible reading in this way? The Book of books is not just meant to be read, but consumed. It was given to be devoured by hungry human hearts.

Furthermore, God, like Maurice, is complimented–no, worshipped!–by this kind of Bible-reading. The scale of your love for God and delight in God is demonstrated by the way in which you respond to his letter to you.

Now, like Jeremiah and Jim, go pick it up, love it, and eat it.

Psalm 63, Finding Nemo, and the Worshipping Heart

King David is nothing if not a worshipper, and Psalm 63 is nothing if not stirring. It drips with incessant desire for God, because David was a man who could not get enough of God. The verbs that David chooses when expressing his desire for nearness with his God contain both intensity and intimacy.

God is not a math-problem to David. He is not a theory. He is not just a God to be explained but a God to be known. This Psalm is saturated with the relational–eminently personal–state of what the worshipping heart looks like. It seeks, longs, thirsts, and faints for God.

Therefore the Christian life is a life of not only believing in someone, namely, God, but longing for and taking satisfaction in him also. The normal Christian life believes in, earnestly seeks out, thirsts for, longs for, and faints for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Let’s look at the first verse of the Psalm a bit closer:

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;”

You remember those crazy seagulls in Finding Nemo that chase after Nemo’s Dad and keep repeating “Mine. Mine. Mine. Mine. Mine. Mine….”? That’s what David is getting at here. Let me remind you:

This is the kind of emotion David is trying to comunicate. David is saying, “He’s MY God. Yes, I know he’s your God too. But for now, in this moment, he’s all mine. Mine. Mine. Mine. And I will chase after him till I find him. Earnestly. Wholeheartedly.”

Lest one think that I am making David’s worshipping heart far too individualistic, it is clear that David is reflecting and remembering his time in the sanctuary of God with the people of God (Ps. 63:2, 6). Yes, his chief desire is to be near his Maker but not to do so apart from his people. David’s worship isn’t an it’s just-me-and-Jesus kind of worship. It’s an it’s me-and-Jesus-with-his-people kind of worship.

“my soul thirsts for you”

I’ve been thirsty, but not wilderness-thirsty. David here is wilderness-thirsty. He may have written this in the time when he was fleeing crazy King Saul hiding in caves or when he was brokenhearted fleeing his son Absalom and his rightful kingdom. Either way, he’s on the run and would have known what it was to be homeless and truly thirsty. But here his thirst is tied not to physical lack but a sense of spiritual lack. The throat of his soul is parched for God.

He is in desperation to drink in God’s presence and draw near to him. He knows without the presence of God his heart is as desolate as the wilderness he is in. He also knows that when one is surrounded by barrenness one can still be filled with God. His circumstances may be “dry and weary” (63:1) but his heart can be alive and alert in God. Therefore he will not let his surroundings and circumstances become the center of his life and the dictator of his emotions. To the contrary, he will “rejoice in God” (63:11).

“my flesh faints for you”

Allright, this seems dramatic. Faint? Like a teenage girl passing out backstage after a Justin Bieber concert kind of faint. Well, not exactly. Remember we are talking about the guy who cut off Goliath of Gath’s head with the giants own sword–that guy. This Philistine-killer faints for God. His flesh boldly stands up to God’s enemies, but will lose all its strength without closeness with Jesus.

The NIV puts it this way: “my whole being longs for you.” Again we are struck with the intimacy of a worshipping heart. David is saying, “Everything within me wants to be with you. My intellect, my emotions, my will, my body itself is all devoted to you. I am yours. You are mine.”

David is not a calm, cool, and collected worshipper. He is a man restlessly devoted to chasing after God’s heart. He desires God so much so that he even clings to him (63:8). Like Paul the apostle David knows that all that is worth living for and makes all of life worth living is the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:8).

Do you have this kind of a worshipping heart? The kind that worships with emotions proportionate to the worth of the object of worship.

God, do it in your heart, and, mostly, in MINE.