When asked about who Jesus was, one common answer given by nonbelievers is that He was a “nice guy” (often followed by a similar comment on His beard). It’s not terribly hard to see why this misconception of Christianity exists. Overzealous God-fearing parents have been known to shelter their young from the world and all its vices, in the belief that this is how to raise saints. Purity culture is still a hot topic. There is a popular Christmas carol that not only suggests Jesus was “mild” and “obedient”, but instructs younger Christians to imitate such behaviour. You probably get the picture…
For sure, being a Christian involves extending the same love to the rest of the world that God does on a constant basis. But could it be that somewhere down the line, we misunderstood what ‘love’ actually looks like?
Love isn’t always cute and furry. It doesn’t require us to enter Pollyanna mode, acting as if all is fine all the time. What it does require is for us to hold out for others even when their flaws are too great to fully ignore. It requires us to believe that there’s something better about encouraging the good in others rather than giving up on them. And part of this involves hating that which stands in the way of holiness – sin, in other words.
Let’s turn to that very obscure Bible passage known as 1 Corinthians 13. In verse 6 we are told that love “does not delight in evil but is happy with the truth”. Filtered through what we know about God being love (1 John 4:8, 16), we see that He isn’t afraid to speak out against that which is wrong.
Indeed, the Bible doesn’t seem to hide the fact that there are certain things God can’t stand. Proverbs 6:16-19, for example, gives us a list of some things the Lord reportedly hates, including “proud looks”, “lying tongues”, “hands that kill the innocent”, and “feet quick to do evil”. Sounds about right; you’d be hard-pressed to find a genuine Christian, or anyone else who considers themselves a good person, disagreeing that those are bad things. And that’s just one of many such passages. It’s clear, to me at least, that representing God’s love may very well involve disapproving of some things.
In fact, not only does God hate sin, but He’s prepared to take practical action against it. Quite severe action, at that. In the cross of Christ, we don’t see a God who is prepared to sit back and watch while sin has its way; we see a God whose love for His creation compels Him to act against sin. This, if nothing else, is proof that God isn’t one to turn a blind eye to evil, either in word or deed.
So it’s OK to hate injustice. It’s OK to hate dishonesty. It’s OK to hate self-centredness. And there’s a good reason why: because God does it all the time.
It always used to jar me when I saw others in the Church speaking out against evil in the world. Sure, I knew we were supposed to stand for what is good, but didn’t Christians have more important things to do than to judge the world for its wrong? It took a while for me to realise: they weren’t simply judging. They were espousing a different set of values to those of the world. Of course, we want to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), but part of that “truth” may involve taking a stand against certain things, since there are things we are supposed to stand for which are completely opposed to them. It’s one thing to acknowledge the existence of evil, but what’s important is that we choose to respond to it in the right ways.