One of the worst things to ever hear or say are the words "I hate you." And since Jesus is the One who God sent to show love to the world, how He handled haters is significant. Today we will explore and hopefully apply two important lessons. Hatred can flow in two directions: hatred towards you and hatred from you. Jesus shows us what to do about both. Get ready by turning to two passages: Matthew 5 and Luke 9.
The term hater is a contemporary description of an aggressive personality type. Urban Dictionary defines it as one who cannot be happy for another's success; rather than be happy for others, haters make a point of exposing a person's flaws. Hatred is a serious issue. Paul listed it as one of the works of the flesh (see Galatians 5), and Leviticus 19 commands, "You shall not hate your brother in your heart" (v. 17). The word hate is mentioned in Scripture 183 times, taking on many forms: mockery, yelling, hurtful speech, persecution, avoiding, and shunning. In this message, we considered how to handle two basic forms of hatred: hatred towards you and hatred from you. The first kind will inevitably happen, but the second does not have to. The first is an occupational hazard, and the second is personal hypocrisy.
When hatred is directed at us, we are to respond with love. In Matthew 5:43-46, we read that there are those who will curse us, hate us, spitefully use us, and be enemies to us. Is there anyone like that in your life, even in your own household? Jesus warned that His followers would suffer persecution. He promised that we "will be hated by all for [His] name's sake" (Matthew 10:22). At the Last Supper, He told His disciples, "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:19). Being hated is one of our occupational hazards as Christians, since we do not share the values of the world. But rather than retaliate, we are to respond with love. Jesus said to "bless those who curse you" (Matthew 5:44). Proverbs 15:1 promises that "a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." We are also to "do good to those who hate [us]" (Matthew 5:44). Often, a strained relationship is relaxed when we send a gift. Proverbs 18:16 says, "A man's gift makes room for him." Never forget that we are to pray for our enemies. It is hard to keep someone on your hit list when you put them on your prayer list. They may not change their attitude toward you, but prayer will change your feelings toward them. Conversely, be warned that if you maintain anger, resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness, then the enemy on the inside will become greater than the enemy on the outside. How do you measure up as a Christian if these verses are the standard? Pick a person you would consider an enemy, and figure out how to bless them, do good to them, and pray for them.
Next, we are to represent the God of love. When we love haters, we show what family we belong to—like Father, like son and daughter (see Matthew 5:45). God Himself loves haters: "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Love gives you away by telling people that you are related to God. Jesus said, "By this [love] all will know that you are My disciples" (John 13:35).
However, if hatred does develop in us, we are to follow the instruction of Luke 9:51-56. This is both a humorous and a human story. James and John were two of Jesus' inner circle, yet they were haters of the Samaritan people. Rejecting Christ is sinful, yet it is more shameful and reprehensible to hate people for rejecting Christ. Thus, hateful speech should be met with rebuke (see Leviticus 19:17). These disciples had a good memory of Scripture but a bad motive. They had Scripture in their heads but no love in their hearts. Don't forget that attitude is more important than aptitude. Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it. Perhaps the most significant choice you make every day is your choice of attitude. Which trusted person have you given permission to rebuke your words, check your attitude, and challenge your prejudices?
Furthermore, our prejudice must be surrendered (see Luke 9:56). The prejudice of the disciples blinded them to God's purpose to save the Samaritans rather than destroy them. God is "longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). God's purposes for people always trump our prejudices. Years later, the church sent Peter and John to preach the gospel in Samaria (see Acts 8). Others may hate you, but they won't win unless you hate them back. Are your prejudices standing in the way of God's purposes for someone? If so, pray that God would reveal your prejudices to you, that your eyes would be open to see them, and that your heart would be open to repentance. Repent if necessary, and get in line with God's purposes for His people.
Adapted from Pastor Skip’s teaching
The BIG Idea
Others may hate you, but they won't win unless you hate them back.
Cross references: Leviticus 19:17; 2 Kings 1; Proverbs 15:1; 18:16; Matthew 5:43-46; 10:36; Mark 3:17; Luke 9:51-56; John 13:35; 15:19; Acts 8; Galatians 5:19-20; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 3:1, 13; Revelation 3:19
Keywords: love, hatred, haters, hate, enemy, persecution, bless, Samaritans, attitude, prejudice, God's purpose