Hatred is a drug. Prolonged use decimates us physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but the buzz keeps us returning for more. And our society is creating addicts at an alarming rate.
Politics today is largely fueled by this addictive drug. We often vote against the opposing candidate rather than for our own representative. Politicians campaign on the tried-and-true platform, “Vote for me, because at least I’m not that other guy!” This mindset extends to the growing industry of pundits who peddle in outrage, drawing scores of viewers to tune in for a daily reminder of just how detestable the other side is.
A byproduct of our hateful culture is a chronic case of “what-about-ism.” We can seemingly overlook any act of immorality, corruption, or scandal in our midst simply by pointing the finger back across the aisle at some perceived worse offense. Our values and convictions are placed on the altar as burnt offerings in the name of winning the culture war against our hated foe.
Hate for Hate
This addiction is the cultural backdrop for the Church today. Unfortunately, rather than standing as a stark contrast, Christians are frequently provoked to fight fire with fire. We embrace and elevate the persona of “tough-minded” Christians. Whereas once believers were praised for rolling up our sleeves and getting dirty to love the unlovable, we now celebrate those who roll up their sleeves, enter the brawl, and start throwing haymakers.
Many Christian leaders now use social media to mock unbelievers and “own the libs,” employing the same rough language and bullying tactics that often define the people they condemn—shepherds delighting in the thrill of fighting off lions rather than in the mundane task of caring for simple sheep.
To turn the other cheek is a display of weakness, and we’re frequently too offended at the gall of being asked to go one mile even to contemplate going two.
In short, many Christians today want to imitate the fire-and-brimstone Jesus who overturned the tables in the temple, but we are less keen on imitating the meek and passive Jesus who prayed forgiveness for His enemies even as they unjustly executed Him.
Yet, when Jesus described how His followers were to be distinguished, He said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Not by our clever rhetoric, snarky memes, or angry rants. Not by our pristine debate record or the number of offended people who blocked us on social media because “they couldn’t handle our bold truth.” Christians are to be known first and foremost by our love.
Known By Our…
Is the Church today known primarily by our love?
At times, absolutely. Christians remain on the front lines of adoption, humanitarian work, and disaster relief. Frequently, however, the Church is defined primarily by what it is not. The Church is “anti-woke” and “anti-liberal.” We are against critical race theory, oppose same-sex marriage, and are the antithesis of liberal Hollywood elitism.
But Christians are not called just to be “un-world-like”; we are called to be “Christ-like.” In imitating Jesus, we will, of course, be set against the things Jesus Himself opposed and preached against, but this juxtaposition is a byproduct of our identity in Christ, not our identity itself.
Many unbelievers today are well-versed in all the cultural or political ideologies Christians oppose but remain ignorant of what Christians truly love, which suggests that perhaps we’ve been more diligent in exposing sin than pointing people toward the savior who can forgive that sin.
This does not mean that Christians shouldn’t fight against injustice and the rampant ungodliness in the world or push back against dangerous worldly philosophies. But what compels us to action makes a difference.
When anger and hatred are our prime motivators, then the natural response is to punch back and condemn our enemies. When love compels us, we will willingly humble ourselves and pray for our enemies. Hate fixates on ideas; love is concerned with people. Anger sees a secular society as adversaries in a contest to be won; love sees a secular and humanistic culture as the symptom of broken, lost, and hurting people in desperate need of Christ’s love and forgiveness.
In short: “For the love of Christ compels us” (2 Cor. 5:14).
When Jesus was asked to name the greatest commandment, He boiled the Christian life down to this: love God and love people. Everything else is built on this simple foundation. If today’s society is drifting away from Christianity, perhaps it is because the Church has abandoned its defining characteristic.
The Church must go beyond merely exposing the godlessness of the world. As society continues to spiral deeper into a toxic and unhealthy relationship with anger and hatred, the Church has a prime opportunity to demonstrate a different way. Like a watery oasis in the middle of a dry desert, the more hate-filled our society becomes, the more beautiful and potently the force of Christ’s love will be felt as it is unleashed by loving Christians to a world that desperately needs it.