Introduction: Hello and welcome to this teaching from Skip Heitzig, pastor of Calvary Albuquerque. Skip's messages are shared globally and we're so thankful to hear how God is using them to change lives. If this teaching resonates with you, we'd like to know. Email us at email@example.com. And if you'd like to support this ministry financially, you can give securely online at calvaryabq.org/giving. Jesus Loves People, that's the profound truth at the heart of our series and it's the truth at the very heart of the gospel. Since Jesus Christ is the one God sent to show love to the world, how we handle haters is significant. We invite you to mark your Bibles in Matthew, chapter 5, and Luke, chapter 9, as Skip begins the message "Jesus Loves Haters."
Skip Heitzig: Two places in your Bible I'd like you to have in front of you to read along. And the first is in Matthew, chapter 5; Matthew's gospel, chapter 5. And the second one is Luke's gospel, chapter 9. Matthew 5 and Luke, chapter 9. Is there anything you hate? Let me name a few things and see if you resonate: brussels sprouts. [laughter] I love them, but I just--some people just loathe them. What about peas? You like them? You hate them? You hate them. Repeated television commercials? Any television commercial? What about when you open a bag of chips and it's 80 percent air? [laughter] Don't you hate that? Tax season? Yeah, we all kind of hate that, unless you work in that industry, then it's great season. I thought this week of a few things that I hate. I hate traffic, I mean, a real traffic jam.
You really don't get much of those around here, honestly. We invented, where I'm from, traffic. And, you know, sitting on the 405 Freeway in gridlock, nothing worse. Um, when somebody is in the passing lane and they're going slow, I get in the flesh. I hate that. Bad coffee--I really hate bad coffee. I know, I'm a coffee snob, but I'd rather just have water, thank you. Pigeons. [laughter] I'm sorry, I'm not a fan. One newspaper did a top 100 list of things that people hate the most. Here's just a sampling of what people said: "When people drive too closely behind you, people who smell, [laughter] people who eat with their mouths open, foreign call centers, slow Internet connections, paper cuts, running out of toilet paper, [laughter] and mobile phone obsessors." Ooh, they're just always looking at those little screens.
Now, having said all that; is there someone you hate? Be careful, you're answering that only in your own heart. And it is a much different question than, "Is there anything you hate?" which is really an annoyance. But is there someone that you can think of that you have hateful feelings toward? Because, after all, we are doing a series called Jesus Loves People. I think some people are confused about love and hate. One little girl was. She was sent to her room, five-year-old, and she pouted, she was so angry. And she wrote a note: "Dear Mom and Dad: I hate you." And then she signed it, "Love, Nicole." [laughter] I even found--truth--a haters' app for your phone. Speak about being obsessed with mobile devices. It's an app, you can download it. I did just to see what it was. It's a free app.
I'm recommending you don't download it, because essentially the people who decided to build this app decided that in the social network community you only have an option, usually, and that is to "like" someone or "like" something. You can't voice a dislike. So it is an entire mobile community built around dissent, what you don't like. It gives people who want to vent a chance to vent. The makers of this app say: "This is an app that allows you to share the things you hate. Hate on celebrities, politicians, bad service, too much traffic, classmates, or annoying Facebook friends." So I got on and I looked at what people were posting and you-you see things like a line around a restaurant and it says, "Waiting for service." Or I saw a post, a picture of a car that took two parking spaces. We hate that, right?
But beyond just an app, the Bible takes the idea of hating very, very seriously. So much so that the word "hate" or "hatred" or "hating" in all of its various forms appears 183 times in the Bible. It is listed by Paul in Galatians 5 as one of "the works of the flesh." And all the way back in the Law in Leviticus, chapter 19, God said, "You shall not hate your brother in your heart." Hatred takes on many forms in Scripture, all the way from mocking, yelling, foul language, persecution, all the way to avoiding and shunning people. But I don't want to stand here and give you a biblical theology of hatred as much as I want to talk about loving haters. So I want to look at two forms of hatred: one that is directed to you, and the other that comes from you. The first kind you can't avoid; the second one you can avoid.
The first one really is an occupational hazard of being a believer; and the second one is really all about selfishness, personal selfishness and hypocrisy. So we're going to begin with the first in Matthew, chapter 5. This is the Sermon on the Mount. Our Lord is teaching his disciples some very important lessons. So this is if hatred is directed to you. Let's read beginning in verse 43. Our Lord says, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemy, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
"For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?" So these are people who will curse you, who will use you, who will hate you, and who will consider you an enemy. I know, some of you are saying, "I don't have any enemies." First of all, that's not true; second, you're going to have lot more if you keep lying like that. [laughter] According to Webster's Dictionary the word "enemy" means someone who is antagonistic toward. Same basic idea in the Greek: one who is antagonistic toward you. Do you have anybody in your life that fits that description? I bet you do. Jesus even said that your enemies could be those of your own household if you live according to gospel.
There's one thing that Jesus promised over and over again to his followers; and that is, persecution; that is, when the world vents hatred towards you. What do you do in that time? It's going to happen. Jesus said the whole world will hate you. When our Lord was speaking to his disciples in the upper room, he said, "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. But you are not of the world, because I've chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." Now think about this series. What are we calling it? Jesus Loves People, and this in particular is "Jesus Loves Haters." So just think about this. "Do you mean Jesus calls me to love people, and some of those very people that I love will hate me?" Yeah, it's the pits, isn't it? But Jesus said, "Love your enemies. Do good, pray for those who are against you."
You see, it is basically an occupational hazard of being a believer to incur the hatred from a worldly system that does not share your values, that does not share your ethics that views you as bigoted and narrow-minded, because you preach the gospel. It's sad, but it's true, that you can be an atheist, you can be an agnostic, you could drink a lot, you could use foul language, you could be promiscuous, and the world will think, "You're okay." But the minute you tell them, "I am in love with the Lord Jesus Christ and I follow him with all of my life. Isn't that great?" Don't except them to go, "Yeah!" You're basically painting a target on you when you do that. No wonder John the apostle wrote to his audience to give them encouragement and comfort.
In First John chapter 3 verse 1 he said, "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God! Therefore the world doesn't know [you], because it didn't know him." "Marvel not, brethren, if the world hates you." That's why so often it feels so weird here now that you belong to heaven, now that you belong to a foreign country, now that you have sworn allegiance to the King of kings. It feels like you're an alien sometimes walking around this world. "Marvel not, brethren, if the world hates you." Sometimes we sort of feel like the missionary who noticed one of the cannibals staring at him. And he said, "What are you looking at?" He said, "I'm just the food inspector." [laughter] We sometimes feel when the world watches us that there's ulterior motive. They want to gobble us up.
They're not interested in our well-being. So what do we do when hatred is directed toward you? Well, it's simple. It's not simple to do, but the answer is simple. We are to respond with love, and in so doing we are representing, we are reflecting a God who loves. We respond in love, and in so doing we represent a God who loves. Look at what the Lord said: "But say to you, love your enemies." So how-how do you do that practically? Well, he tells us. "Bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." Let's consider those. "Bless those who curse you." We know what that means; it means don't retaliate, don't think of something nice and juicy as a comeback to throw their way.
What does Proverbs 15:1 tell us? "A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger." So the choice is yours. What do you want? Do you want the wrath to be turned away or do you want it to be stirred up? Well, then choose a tone of voice, a comeback that is commensurate with that end result. "A soft answer turns away wrath, harsh words stir up anger." It is our natural inclination whenever we are verbally attacked to attack back. It's amazing, isn't it? We can think in a millisecond when we get attacked verbally, we can think clearly of the best comeback. "Oh, this would just cut them off at the knees. And it's right there. It's right on the tip of the tongue. I just couldn't release it." Don't do it. Don't do it.
I found an interesting study from Kenyon College and they-they admitted to the fact that when somebody shouts, the person who is shouted at will almost always respond with a shout as loud or louder than the first, and that the tone of voice in response can be measured by the tone that was initially given to it. So they did all these just fun little studies and they said at the end of it, you can use this scientific knowledge to keep another person from becoming angry, control the other person's tone of voice by your own voice. Studies have proven that if you keep your voice soft, you will not become angry. Psychology has accepted as scientific the old biblical injunction which says, "A soft answer turns away wrath."
So I tried this a few years ago. Somebody had called me on the phone very angry, very irate, not just attacking things, but attacking me personally. And he was--his voice was raising, so I just decided I'm going to try this. And I tried to speak in a very soft, humble tone, apologizing if I had offended him in any way. And by the end of the conversation it was absolutely amazing. He said softly, "You're right. You've been right all along in this issue. You have acted honorably and I have not." I hung up the phone and I thought, "Amazing--what the Bible says does work." [laughter] So you "Bless those who curse you." That's how you respond with love. Notice the second thing the Lord says: "Do good to those who hate you."
Now just think about this. Can you think of somebody who's antagonistic towards you? Who just every time you're around them at work or in the family, it's that person who "Ngh, ngh, ngh, ngh"? What if you were to do good? Let me throw something at you. What if you were to send them a gift? I know, you're thinking, "Are you nuts? Send them a gift?" I actually gave this advice to a dear woman in our church. She has a coworker who is very antagonistic and says--she told me what she said. And I said, "Send her a gift." And she looked at me like, "What!?" I said, "Send her a gift with a note that says, 'You know, we got off on the wrong foot. Let's try this from the start. Let's do this again. Let's do it over.' "
And I've actually made this a practice when there have been people in my life where there's deep tensions that mount, sometimes I will just send a gift with a note of encouragement or congratulations, or "I'm thinking about you and praying for you." It is amazing what that does. The Bible in Proverbs 18 says, "A man's gift makes room for him." I love how one person thought, he said, "Love your enemies; it'll drive them crazy." It will and you'll also turn them around. The final thing Jesus said is pray for them. Pray for them. He says, "Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." This is what I've discovered: it is very, very hard to keep someone on your hit list once you place them on your prayer list. You just can't harbor ill feelings when you're praying for them on a regular basis.
You may not change them, you may not change their attitude towards you, but it will change the way you feel about them. It'll change the way you feel. If you don't do this--if you don't love, if you don't forgive, if you don't bless your enemies, if you don't pray for them--what you will find is you have an enemy now inside of you worse than the enemy outside. Enemies like anger, resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness. And those things will grow, and you'll find that the enemy on the outside is nothing compared to the enemy on the inside. And then you're filled with all of this bitterness and hatred and anger because you've been hated on. Now you've become just like them. No difference. So Jesus' response is respond with love.
When hatred is directed to you, respond with love and in so doing you represent the God of love. Verse 45, "That you may be the sons of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, he sends rain on the just and on the unjust." You know, when you love a hater, you are showing what family you belong to. You've heard the old adage, "Like father, like son." Sometime ago I was talking to a young man in our church. I'd watched him grow up, but now I'm talking to him as a grown-up. And what struck me is how much like his father he was, in a good way: tone of voice, the way he gave eye contact, body mannerisms. I thought, "He's like a spitting image, almost, maybe not physically, but in other ways, personality. I can see the resemblance."
I love the idea that we could be around people and they could say, "You must be a believer in Christ." I had a man tell me that last night. He said, "I'm walking through my work and a couple people stopped me and said, 'Are you a Christian?' They could just tell," he said, "by the way I've acted, I suppose, or my demeanor, I suppose." I've always loved the story about a woman who was walking in a downtown section of a large city, and she noticed a little boy peering through the window. He's obviously very poor, ill-clad, shoes are all beat up. So she took the young man inside. She got a bucket of water and a towel and washed his feet, and bought him, not one, but six pairs of shoes with socks, and was about to send him on his way.
When she was about to leave, she felt a tug at her coat, and it was that little boy looking up saying, "Are you God's wife? [laughter] There just has got to be some relation between you and God the way you have acted." Love gives you away. It lets people know, it tells people that you are related to God. Jesus said, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, by the love you have for another." I know this is not new information to you. I know I'm captain obvious right now. You have heard all of this stuff before. But sometimes in Bible study it's not just about, "Heard that before. I want some new information," sometimes we need transformation by just doing the old stuff. And Jesus said, "By this shall all men know you are my disciples, by the love you have one for another."
See, the world doesn't care what bumper stickers you have. I have never yet ridden in a car with an unbeliever who said, "Ooh, look at that Christian bumper sticker! I'm impressed." Never had that happen. I've heard them mock it, but I've never had them like, "Wow!" See, those things are for us. They tell us that a believer's driving the car. Nothing wrong with bumper stickers, but they don't impress the world. And our cool, clever sayings on our Christian T-shirts don't impress them either. But I'll tell you what will impress them, is once you let them know you're a disciple and you show genuine love to them. See, even the unbeliever understands enough of the Bible that Christians ought to love. And one of biggest complaints toward Christians is that we don't always live out our faith.
We are to live it out by love. So if hatred is directed toward you, respond with love, and thereby represent the God of love. Now let's turn the page. Now let's look at Luke's gospel, chapter 9. Now, we look at a whole different kind of hatred. It's not at you. It's not toward you. It's from within you. You are developing attitudes toward others that are unhealthy and hateful if hatred is developed in you. Luke, chapter 9, beginning in verse 51: "Now it came to pass, when the time had come for him to be received up, he [Jesus] steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before his face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for him. But they did not receive him, because his face was set for the journey to Jerusalem."
"And when the disciples James and John saw this, they said, 'Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?' But he turned and rebuked them, and said, 'You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them.' "This, to me, is one of the more human and even more humorous stories in the New Testament. Two of his disciples, in fact, inner circle, apostles James and John--there were Peter, James, and John. And what's surprising to me is that, you know, this isn't Thomas or Judas saying this, this is James and John the apostle of love. It's sort of like when you discover that sweet Aunt Susie of yours swears. [laughter] And you go, "Susie?" I go, "James and John?"
You know, they're sort of like on the God Squad, but now they're like the Galilean Mafia. [laughter] I believe it's because of this story that we read that Jesus gives them a nickname. Some of you know what it is. It's in Mark, chapter 3, when a list is given of the apostles, and they're given the nickname the "Sons of"--what?--"Thunder." Sons of Thunder. Why? Because of this suggestion: "Hey, let's nuke the village . . . in Jesus' name." [laughter] You do need to know a little bit of the background. There had been for centuries a prejudice against the Samaritans by the Jews and vice versa. There had been a long-standing rivalry all-all going back to the time of King Solomon, when the kingdom split and Jeroboam put a golden calf in Samaria and way up north, further up north.
And then that was compounded years later in 722 BC when the Assyrians took over the land, repopulating it with foreigners from other captured countries, so that those left over Jews would intermarry with those foreign people and the bloodline was now polluted. Complicated more by the fact that when the Jews returned down south to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple, and the Samaritans offered to help, the Jews in Jerusalem said, "No. You're not going to help us." That was the great divide. So what happens is the Samaritans build a rival temple--think of it like cult worship--on their own mountain, Mount Gerizim. And so Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, the center of Jewish worship. He is not staying much there. He has a goal to fulfill.
But the Samaritans pick up on the body language. "Hey, he's not here to worship at our place; he's going to Jerusalem like the Jews do." So they snubbed him. Picking up on that, the two disciples said, "Let's kill them." How does Jesus handle it, and how must we handle it? Or how should somebody handle us if we are haters? There's three ways that I see in this text. First of all, your words must be rebuked. Immediately Jesus--here's what they said, and he said, "He turned around and he rebuked them." Revelation 3, Jesus says, "As many as I love, I rebuke and I chasten." Now think about this: Samaritan worship was false worship, it was cultic worship, it was dishonoring to God, but the disciples' words were destructive to the people God loves. So they get rebuked.
You can't force people into your belief system. And just saying those words would influence and infect the other ten apostles who were there. Yes, rejecting Christ is sinful, rejecting Christ is shameful, but hating people for it is reprehensible. And so their words were rebuked, and your words must be as well if this comes from you. I found something in a journal I was looking at from the British Royal Navy. They have a regulation in the British Royal Navy that says, and I quote: "No officer shall speak discouragingly to another officer in the discharge of his duties." In other words, if somebody violates by speaking something wrong, they are rebuked by somebody else in the navy, and hateful speech should be met with rebuke.
If somebody says something who's a believer, a brother, a sister, and it's wrong, it's hateful, stop them and say, "It's not okay for you to say that." Maybe they've never had that happen before. But say, "It's not okay to do that." That's okay for you to say that if that happens. In Leviticus, chapter 19, I quoted just a portion of it. Here's the rest: "You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him." In other words, don't hold it in, get it out. Don't carry it with you. If there's a rebuke that is needed, do it. Your words must be rebuked. Second, your attitude must be checked. If you're a hater, you got to deal with the attitude. Look at what Jesus says: "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of."
Now let me work with this. "You boys, you've got good memories. Oh, you remember what the Bible says in Second Kings 1 that Elijah called fire down from heaven--good memory. And you remember all of the animosity and bitter resentment and prejudice between the Jews and the Samaritans for centuries--good memory. You boys have a great memory, but you have a bad motive. You got the Scripture in your head, but no love in your heart." Could that be said of some of us? Do you have the Scripture in your head? You know that Bible. You quote it. You read it. You even know the original language. But is there love in your heart that accompanies that knowledge? You see, to Jesus attitudes are more important than aptitudes.
Even if you could call fire down from heaven, Jesus didn't go, "Wow, you can do that? Wow! I'm impressed." Even if they had that aptitude, their attitude was wrong. Listen, your attitude is the rudder that controls everything in your life, what you say and what you do. I'm convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to you, and 90 percent how you respond. I know that 10 percent can get gnarly sometimes. But I'm convinced that every day you and I have a choice to wake up and face the day with an attitude. And we make that choice, and that is all-important. Check your attitude when you're dealing with somebody. Is that person just an inconvenience? Is he in the way or is she in the way? Is that a bad person? Or are viewing those irregular people as opportunities for you to grow? Check your attitude.
Third thing and final thing in this story: your prejudice at some point needs to be surrendered to God. Whatever prejudice you have toward someone has to be let go and surrendered to God's purpose. Verse 56, Jesus says, "For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." Can you understand that James and John were at this point blinded by their prejudice? And their prejudice blinded them from seeing what God's purpose was for the Samaritans. What was their purpose? Jesus said it: "to save them," "to save them." Like we're told in Second Peter: "[God] is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." God's purpose for people always, always, always, trumps our prejudice toward people. Prejudice is the seedbed of hatred.
Whenever we meet somebody--this is human nature, we all do this, but we have to check our attitude in this. When we meet someone, we usually size them up in our heads. We look at what they're wearing, how they do their hair, and we make certain assessments: well-to-do, not so well-to-do; good dresser, bad dresser; white person, Hispanic person, black person, homosexual person, dishonest person. How about this, strip all that away--that's just a person. That is just a person created in the image of God and God has a purpose for that life. And you surrender your prejudices to the purpose of God and you start looking at people differently. Let's ask ourselves, "Are my prejudices standing in the way of God's purpose for someone else?" Are my words standing in the way of God's purposes for someone else?
Is my attitude standing in the way of God's purpose for someone else? Now, here's what's most interesting to me: James and John make this suggestion. Jesus rebukes them, says what he says. They go to another village. I'm going, "Whew! Got out of town just in the nick of time." And here's why: by the time we get to Acts, chapter 8, we find John and Peter in Samaria preaching the gospel to the Samaritans and a revival breaks out in Samaria. What would have happened if they would have nuked that village? There'd be no Samaritans to hear the gospel and be saved. God's purpose would have been totally eliminated. So they had learned their lesson, because one of these two shows up in this town sometime later and gives the life-giving message of Jesus Christ.
So you may be hated--no. I'll rephrase that. You will be hated, but don't you be a hater. Because if you are, you'll find a bigger enemy inside of you that is insatiable and will grow and grow and take over. Others are going to hate you, but they won't win unless you hate them back, and the moment you do, they've won. So, bless them, buy them that gift, pray for them. Put them on your prayer list, take them off your hit list, and watch what the Lord does in your heart. Father, these are lessons that I will just confess, they're easy for me to preach, and they are hard for me to live. Because I, like everyone else here, has feelings whenever hateful speech comes our way, or misunderstanding is vented at us, or we open the hater app and we find our picture in it posted by somebody else.
And we think, "Wow, I'm the object of disdain." It's very difficult to live that way. How blessed we are to know that we are related to a Savior who lived like that, and you understand. So, Lord, I pray that our tone might change, our body language would change, and I pray that this would just be another week where a little more change happens in every single heart that has heard this message, that we might be more like you and honor you and show your love, in Jesus name, amen.
Closing: We've been called to represent Jesus to this world, and the best way we can do that is to share his love. Has there been a situation in your life when God's love overcame hate? We'd love to hear your story. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. And just a reminder, you can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/giving. Thank you for listening to this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque.