Posts tagged ‘Hatred’

Terror Strikes New Zealand

Members of the public mourn at a flower memorial near the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch

Credit: RTE News

“The wages of sin is death,” the apostle Paul writes in Romans 6:23.  These words were horrifyingly instantiated this past Friday when a terrorist gunman opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 50.  The crime was, in every way, monstrous.  Minutes before he went on his rampage, he emailed top government officials a rambling and incoherent manifesto, outlining his ardent white nationalistic beliefs.  He then strapped on a helmet camera so he could livestream his attack on social media.  Finally, he shot many worshipers at these mosques, which included several children, at point blank range as they cowered in corners.

If anyone ever doubted the dastardly death that sin – including philosophical sin like white nationalism – can bring, now would be the time to become a true believer in the devastations of depravity.

Near the end of the book of Genesis, we read of a man named Jacob and his twelve sons, the favorite of whom is Joseph.  Joseph’s brothers, Genesis 37:4 says, “hated him” because of his status as his father’s favorite son.  Their hatred eventually spawned a plot among the brothers to kill their kinsman.  And they would have, were it not for a last-second intercession by one of the brothers, Judah, who decided it would be more financially advantageous if, instead of killing Joseph, they sold him into slavery (Genesis 37:26-27).

Hatred is an acid that eats up the soul.  This is why the Bible’s consistent and continuous call is to love – and not just to love those who are like us.  The Bible’s consistent and continuous call is to love those who are very different from us and even hate us.  As Jesus puts it:

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you … If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?  Do not even pagans do that? (Matthew 5:44, 46-47)

White nationalism explicitly tramples on Jesus’ command.  It not only fails to love its enemies, it actually creates enemies where there need be none and becomes an enemy to those who do not fit its arbitrarily contrived ethnic and philosophical strictures.  It trades the foundational and universal sanctity of life for a hackneyed and exclusionary solidarity of race.

Blessedly, love did manage to rise up and break through when hatred was spraying a hail of bullets into two mosques in Christchurch.  48-year-old Abdul Aziz was at the second of the mosques.  He was there with his four children to pray.  When the terrorist began firing in the parking lot of the mosque, rather than running away, Mr. Aziz ran into the lot with the only thing he could find – a credit card machine.  After firing off many rounds, the terrorist returned to his vehicle to grab a second weapon, and Mr. Aziz hurled the credit card machine at him.  The terrorist then fired off another series of rounds at Mr. Aziz, who managed to protect himself by ducking between cars.  When the terrorist returned to his vehicle yet again to grab yet another weapon, Mr. Aziz found one of the guns he had dropped and, after realizing it was empty, threw it at the windshield of the terrorist’s car.  The windshield shattered.  The terrorist was spooked.  He sped off.  And many lives were saved.

Mr. Aziz explained, in an interview with The New York Times, “I was prepared to give my life to save another life.”  That’s love.  And it stopped hate dead when hate was trying to speed death.

Christianity teaches that there was another man – a perfect man, who was also God – who was prepared to give His life to save other lives.  His name was Jesus.  And He not only was prepared to die.  He did die.  And He not only saved lives by His death.  He bought for us eternal life with His death.

“The wages of sin is death,” the apostle Paul writes in Romans 6:23.  But he continues: “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  In Jesus’ death, love killed hate.  May this be our confidence and our conviction as we mourn the tragic losses in Christchurch.

March 18, 2019 at 5:15 am 2 comments

A Package Bomber and a Synagogue Shooter

It’s been a tragic week in our nation.  And that’s putting it mildly.  Beginning last Monday, a series of packages containing explosive devices began to turn up at homes, at business, and in post offices.  These packages were addressed to Democratic politicians, including the Obamas and the Clintons, as well as to financier George Soros, actor Robert De Niro, and CNN.  Though none of the packages detonated, they were sent by a man who was, to put it mildly, devotedly partisan in his views.  He drove a van covered with bumper stickers showing Democratic politicians in crosshairs.  He also posted violent and threatening rhetoric on social media.

Then, on Saturday, a gunman armed with an AR-15 and three rifles showed up at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.  He shouted, “All Jews must die,” and opened fire.  By the time his shots fell silent, eleven were dead and a number of others were injured.  As investigators looked into this shooter’s past, he too was found to have posted violent and threatening rhetoric on social media.  He was also a member of an egregiously anti-Semitic online community.

It’s no secret that we’re a nation on edge.  A lot of people hate a lot of other people.  This hate, in turn, when coupled with a mental health crisis that seems to be creeping across our society, erupts in violence – just as it did in the case of these two men.

At this moment, when hatred is hot, Christians must be on the frontlines advocating for love.  Our culture is fighting the wrong demons.  Our culture sees demons in politicians and positions it doesn’t like.  It sees demons in religions and races it doesn’t like.  But Scripture is clear.  We are called to fight:

…not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

If we’re fighting other people, we’re doing it wrong.  Our struggle is against the demons the Bible identifies as truly demonic – not against the demons created for us on social media.

In his new book, Them: Why We Hate Each Other – And How To Heal, Senator Ben Sasse offers a convicting analysis of our cultural milieu:

It seems clear that in America today, we’re facing problems that feel too big for us, so we’re lashing out at each other, often over less important matters.  Many of us are using politics as a way to distract ourselves from the nagging sense that something bigger is wrong.  Not many of us would honestly argue that if our “side” just had more political power, we’d be able to fix what ails us.  Fortunately, we can avoid addressing the big problems as long as someone else – some nearer target – is standing in the way of our securing the political power even to try.  It’s easier to shriek at people on the other side of the street.  It’s comforting to be able to pin the problems on the freaks in the pink hats or the weirdos carrying the pro-life signs.

At least our contempt unites us with other Americans who think like we do.

At least we are not like them.

Senator Sasse speaks specifically to our political climate, but his words can be applied to our broader cultural problems as well.  There is an attitude prevalent among many that does not want to solve problems.  Instead, it only wants to grab power.  There is an attitude prevalent among many that does not seek understanding.  Instead, it only traffics in character assassination.  And the results, even if they are, thankfully, generally not violent, are certainly not good.  People begin to trade transcendent commitments for tribal grievances.  They stop looking at others as people who are precious by virtue of being created in God’s image and instead see them as enemies needing to be eradicated.  They make demons out of mortals.

The Psalmist describes God’s patience with the Israelites of old like this:

He was merciful; He forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time He restrained His anger and did not stir up His full wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return. (Psalm 78:38-39)

God was patient with and merciful to the Israelites because He remembered who the Israelites were – mere, fragile mortals.  Their lives were so short and fragile that they were like passing breezes.  God is patient with and merciful to us because He remembers who we are – mere, fragile mortals.  Our lives are so short and fragile that we are like passing breezes.  Perhaps we should see each other like God sees us.  Perhaps we should restrain our anger and wrath like God does for us.  I hope this past week has taught us at least that much.

Life’s too short to hate.

October 29, 2018 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ISIS and Sufis

Because it was over the long Thanksgiving weekend, the ISIS attack on an Egyptian Sufi mosque that killed 305 people a week ago Friday received some attention, but not as much as it might have normally.  But it is important.  The sheer scope of the tragedy is gut-wrenching.  The mass shooting at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas claimed 59 lives.  The mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs claimed 26.  The attack on this mosque killed over 300.  It is sobering to try to fathom.

Part of what makes this attack so disturbing is that one group of Muslims – or at least self-identified Muslims – in ISIS perpetrated this attack against another group of Muslims who are Sufi.  At its heart, this attack was driven not by political or cultural differences, but by an all-out holy war.  Rukmini Callimachi, in a report for The New York Times, explains:

After every attack of this nature, observers are perplexed at how a group claiming to be Islamic could kill members of its own faith. But the voluminous writings published by Islamic State and Qaeda media branches, as well as the writings of hard-liners from the Salafi sect and the Wahhabi school, make clear that these fundamentalists do not consider Sufis to be Muslims at all.

Their particular animus toward the Sufi practice involves the tradition of visiting the graves of holy figures. The act of praying to saints and worshiping at their tombs is an example of what extremists refer to as “shirk,” or polytheism.

Certainly, the veneration of the dead is a problem – not only for many Islamic systems of theology, but for orthodox Christianity as well.  When the Israelites are preparing to enter the Promised Land, God warns them:

Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD; because of these same detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you.  (Deuteronomy 18:10-12)

On this, many Christians and Muslims agree: venerating the dead is not only superstitious and paganistic, it smacks of polytheism by exalting a departed soul to the position of God, or, at minimum, to a position that is god-like.  Yet, one can decry the veneration of the dead without creating more dead, an understanding that many others in the Muslim world, apart from ISIS, seem to be able to maintain with ease.  Theological disagreements can be occasions for robust debate, but they must never be made into excuses for bloodshed.

There are some in the Christian world, who, like Sufi Muslims, venerate those who are dead in ways that make other Christians very uncomfortable.  Catholicism’s veneration of the saints, for instance, is rejected as unbiblical and spiritually dangerous by many Protestants, including me.  But this does not mean that there are not many theological commitments that I don’t joyfully share with my Catholic brothers and sisters, including a creedal affirmation of Trinitarian theology as encapsulated in the ecumenical creeds of the Church.  I may disagree with Catholics on many important points of doctrine, but they are still my friends in Christ whom I love.

Jesus famously challenged His hearers to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).  Part of what I find so compelling about Jesus’ challenge is not just its difficulty – though it is indeed very demanding to try to love someone who hates you – but its keen insight into the devastating consequences of hate.  If you love your enemy, even when it’s difficult, you can most certainly love your friends, and, by God’s grace, you may even be able to make friends out of enemies when they become overwhelmed by your love.  But if you hate your enemy, even your friends will eventually become your enemies, and you will hate them too.  Why?  Because hate inevitably begets more hate.

ISIS has made a theological system out of hate.  Thus, they have no friends left to love.  They only have enemies to kill, including other Muslims.  Christians, however, worship a God who not only has love, but is love (1 John 4:16).  For all the Sufis who are mourning, then, we offer not only our condolences, but our hearts, and we hold out the hope of the One who is not only the true God, but the one Savior, and who makes this promise:  ISIS’s hate that leads to death is no match for Jesus’ love and His gift of life.

December 4, 2017 at 5:15 am 1 comment

The National Anthem and the NFL

NFL: SEP 24 Browns at Colts

Credit: Time

I’m not sure I ever thought I’d see the day where more people would be talking about the National Anthem at the beginning of an NFL game than the score at the end of an NFL game.  But here we are.

What began as a one-man protest by Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, against, according to his own words, “a country that oppresses black people and people of color” has been spun up into an all-out culture war with as many rabbit trails as Scylla has heads.  One head continues to protest racial inequality.  Another head complains that a United States president would insert himself into an NFL personnel predicament to call for the firing of football players who kneel.  Still another head seethes over the thought that anyone would dare to disrespect a flag that is so closely tied to the men and women who have laid down their lives in service to our country.  The only thing these heads seem to share in common is that they’re all beet red with anger.

This can’t be good for us.  I agree with Ross Douthat who described this controversy as one in which “mutual misunderstanding reigns and a thousand grievances are stirred up without a single issue being clarified or potentially resolved.”  This is most certainly true.  This is a controversy that is ready-made to stoke the flames of a fight without providing a path to peace.  This is a controversy that encourages us to fester in a self-righteous indignation without having to listen to any side besides our own.  This is a controversy that excuses us from any duty to empathize so that we can hate a villain we refuse to humanize.

Bret Stephens, in a recent lecture, said that far too many of our positions on the public debates of our day “have become the moated castles from which we safeguard our feelings from hurt and our opinions from challenge. It is our ‘safe space.’ But it is a safe space of a uniquely pernicious kind – a safe space from thought, rather than a safe space for thought.”  So, we boo at those who dare to kneel and shame those who want to stand.

One of the things I appreciate about our National Anthem is that it can serve as a reminder of all the things we have to appreciate about our country – our freedom, our entrepreneurial spirit, and our commitment to be “the home of the brave” not only by confronting threats abroad, but also by honestly addressing where we have fallen short at home.  But now, as with so many other things, the National Anthem has become a flashpoint for division instead of a call to brotherhood.  We’ve taken our national motto’s pluribus and divorced it from its unum.  Now all we’re left with is e pluribus odium.

As Christians, we must never forget that even when our country is fracturing, Christ’s Church will not.  The unity that He gives is an example that, especially right now, our nation needs. And the unity that He promises is a hope that, especially right now, we can share.  Fractures can still be healed and many can still be one because of the One who died for many.

October 2, 2017 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – When Family Members Don’t Believe

It always concerns me when I’m talking to a parent of a young child and he says something like, “I’m going to let my child make his own decisions about religion as he grows.  I may take him to church every once in a while, I’ll give him a Bible, but ultimately, it’s up to him.  I don’t want to cram religion down his throat.”  I once heard of some parents who took their daughter to church until she was eight, at which time they began to ask her: “Would you like to go to church this morning, honey?”  I leave it you to guess which decision she made.

This past weekend in worship and ABC, we kicked off a new series titled, “All in the Family:  Discovering God’s Plan for Your Family.”  In this series, we are taking a look at the roles God has given husbands, wives, parents, and children to play in their families.  At the heart of each of these roles, however – whether your role is that of a husband, a wife, a parent, a child, or some combination thereof – is the preeminence of Christ.  In other words, if you are part of a family, you should never simply leave it up to another family member’s discretion as to whether or not they want to “be religious.”  Rather, you should clearly, compellingly, and persuasively present Christ’s gospel.  You should model to and for your family what a Christ-centered life looks like.

In our text from Matthew 10, Jesus gives us a straightforward estimate of the cost of a Christ-centered life:  “I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:35-37).  A Christ-centered life means that you are to love Christ and follow Him above all else – even your family.  And if this upsets your family – if this turns them into “enemies,” as Jesus says in verse 36 – so be it.  It is important to remember that at the same time the gospel of Christ unites, it also can divide.  It is a “stumbling block” to those who refuse to believe (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:23).

Interestingly, the Greek word Jesus uses for “enemies” is ekthros.  This word is first used in the Bible in Genesis 3:15, when God curses the Satanic serpent for tempting Adam and Eve into sin:   “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your Offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.” The Greek word for “enmity” is again ekthros. This is the Bible’s first prophecy of Christ, reminding us that He, as a descendent of Eve and the very Son of God, will crush the head of Satan on the cross.  We also are to be enemies of Satan and all he teaches and touts.

Sadly, sometimes, even within families, one person teaches and touts the truth of God while another teaches and touts other things not of God.  In this way, they become an enemy of the faith as Jesus says.  But there is still hope!

In the early days of Christianity, it was not uncommon for two pagan people to marry and then for one to convert to Christianity.  This created a situation where one spouse was believing and the other was not.  Thankfully, the Bible offers some guidance on how to graciously and whimsically witness to those in our family who do not have faith in Christ.  Though much of the biblical guidance is given specifically to husbands and wives, it can certainly be applied in the context of other family relationships as well.  So here are three thoughts on how to witness to unbelieving family members.

First, remember that even if a family member does not trust in Christ, they are still part of your family!  The apostle Paul writes, “To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).  Notice what Paul says:  If your spouse is an unbeliever, you don’t disown and divorce him or her; rather, you stay in the marriage.  After all, that person is still your spouse!  He or she is still your family!  Thus, a difference in faith is not a basis for estrangement.

Second, your life in Christ and for Christ is a powerful to witness to family members who do not believe.  The apostle Peter writes to wives who have unbelieving husbands: “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives” (1 Peter 3:1-2).  Peter’s goal is for wives to “win over” their husbands by their witness to Christ, even if their witness to Christ is a silent one.  This witness to Christ is one born out of behavior and purity.  Thus, as we spend time with unbelieving family members, it is important to ask:  What kind of witness – in word and in deed – am I giving for Christ?

Third, your greatest affection must be for Christ, not for your family.  Jesus could not be clearer:  “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37).  Your highest allegiance and affection must be for Christ.  To love anyone – even your family – more than Christ is sinful.  Indeed, it is only by loving Christ that a person can truly learn how to love his family.  For the best love we can give our families is a love that is from and of God.  Any love that we give our families apart from this love is only a cut-rate love.  And who would want to give their families that?

Having unbelieving family members is never easy.  But, by God’s grace working through His holy Word, unbelieving family members do not need to stay unbelieving forever.  They can be transformed.  Jesus can save them.  After all, he saved us.  And if Jesus can save a guy like me, there’s hope for us all!

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May 2, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Homosexuality, Hatred, and the Gospel

With both interest and sadness, I have been following the slew of recent student suicides by young men who were reportedly the targets of anti-homosexual bullying.  The most widely reported of these was Tyler Clementi, a promising eighteen year old freshman at Rutgers University who jumped off the George Washington bridge after his roommate secretly streamed his sexual encounter with another male.  Other recent suicides include those of Justin Aaberg and Billy Lucas, both fifteen.  As these tragic stories have trickled through our news cycles, one word to describe the motive of the bullies who drove these young men to despair has been brandished about again and again:  homophobia.  Consider, for instance, the headline that ran in the Huffington Post yesterday:  “Homophobia:  The Plague That Is Killing Our Youth.”

It seems as though “homophobia” is a word that is used to describe just about every conceivable form of opposition toward homosexuality.  When New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino spoke to a group of Jewish children about being “brainwashed into thinking homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option” and then followed his comment up by saying, “It isn’t,” his competitor, Andrew Cuomo, accused him of “stunning homophobia.”  The PBS newsmagazine show “Frontline” has a special titled, “Assault On Gay America,” complete with a web-based “Homophobia Questionnaire” that includes such statements as “Homosexuality is immoral” and “Homosexuality is acceptable to me” and then asks you to rate whether you “strongly agree” or “strongly disagree” with these statements.  Last week, the Christian Science Monitor ran an article titled, “Homophobia Hurts Straight Men, Too,” which equated homophobia with “intolerance.”

The stories of young men who have been driven to despair and suicide by anti-homosexual bullying are tragic.  But I am not sure that we help their cause, nor adequately impugn their attackers, by simply decrying the problem of “homophobia.”  I know how the argument goes:  Anti-homosexual bullying is really the product of deep-seeded anxiety concerning a person’s own sexual desires.  But in most cases, this connection is empirically indemonstrable.  It is merely an ad hominem accusation.  Moreover, taking a moral or ethical stance against homosexual activity cannot be mechanically dubbed as “homophobic.”  For, in many of these instances, the driver of such a stance is not one of fear, but one of concern for the effects of homosexual activity on individuals and on society.

Perhaps it is time to trade the epithet “homophobia” for a more accurate, and really more damning, driver behind those who bully homosexuals:  hatred.  Bullying another person for whatever reason can be driven by nothing less than a ghastly arrogance that disdainfully looks down on others who it considers “different” or “lesser” in order to build itself up.

Blessedly, Christians are uniquely poised to address such hatred, for our Lord has told us:  “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).  Christians are called to love others.  What does this mean?  In the case of those engaged in homosexual lifestyles, it means loving them in a way that “does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).  And the truth is that homosexual activity is immoral (cf. Leviticus 18:22) and unnatural (cf. Romans 1:26-27).  This needs to be said!  But it does not need to be said in a way that belittles, badgers, or bullies another person.  Rather, it needs to be said out of a love that is simply honest enough to offer a biblical assessment of sin coupled with an affirmation of God’s love for sinners:  “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  In the case of those who demonstrate hatred toward homosexuals by bullying them, showing love means, once more, addressing their sin in a way that “does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.”  And the truth is, those who hate are “in darkness” (1 John 2:9) and are murderers (cf. 1 John 3:15).  And yet, this biblical assessment of sin must, once again, be coupled with an affirmation of God’s love for sinners.

As I have read these recent news stories concerning the suicides of these young, homosexual men, I have noticed that they sound a note of deep ethical concern – and appropriately so – concerning the plight of the victims of these hoary anti-homosexual attacks.  Conspicuously absent, however, is any concern for the attackers.  Do they not need our love too?  For if we hate those who hate homosexuals, have we not fallen prey to their same sin of hatred?  This is the point that the news stories which cover these tragedies seem to consistently miss.

As Christians, we are called to be concerned not only for the victims, but also for the attackers.  This is our call by the gospel.  The gospel calls us, as Christians, to confront sin – all sin – and to love people – all people.  It calls us to confront even the sin that the world sanctions and to love even the people that the world hates.  And it calls us to show people the way of eternal life.  And in a world that has seen far too many suicides recently, I can’t imagine a more precious promise than life.

October 12, 2010 at 11:00 am 1 comment

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