Hating What God Hates

In his excellent little book, 9 Things a Leader MUST DO, author Henry Cloud (perhaps best known for co-authoring the book Boundaries with John Townsend) identifies suggests, as the title says, nine key commitments which great leaders seem naturally to undertake and which, when learned, can move any leader in the direction of personal growth and greater influence in their area of endeavor.

One of the nine “musts” which Cloud identifies is the suggestion that great leaders “earn a black belt in hate.” That is, he says, they develop the ability to hate the right things well. He goes on to ask what we might think about people who hate: arrogance, lying, innocent people being hurt, harmful schemes, evil practices, telling lies about others, and things that stir up dissension among people? If a person’s life demonstrated the truth of those claims, wouldn’t you welcome that person as a coworker or business partner? Would it be easy to trust and depend on such a person?

Cloud effectively lays out the rightful place of hate in working against those things that are destructive while seeking to enhance and protect relationships. And he does an admirable job of clarifying the difference between hating the wrong behavior or cause of a problem yet still showing appropriate love, respect and care for the person.

 In our Christian talk, we often stress the importance of “hating the sin yet loving the sinner” yet, in practice, I suspect most of us aren’t very precise in differentiating between the two. When affronted and offended, we can be so quick to lump the sinner in with his or her sin. We specialize, most of us, in shoveling loads of shame, along with our outrage, towards the person, not just to the offense.

Human beings have an inordinate capacity and inclination to label and judge one another and to presume that someone’s mistakes or wrong behavior is a direct manifestation of their character. As an example, if at some event, I feel that someone is ignoring and snubbing me (regardless of whether they in fact even are aware of my presence), my wounded ego immediately declares them arrogant, snobbish and rude. I have immediately leapt from my perception of their behavior in a particular moment of time to a critical judgment against their very character, and then dismiss them as unworthy of our regard or kindness. Worse, we are also prone to letting the anger, opinion and judgments of one person unduly sway us not only in our estimation of another but in our talk about them. Bill tells me how bad a person Henry is, and without checking whether Bill is accurate in his estimation or giving Henry any benefit of the doubt, I repeat the judgment to Martha who echoes it to Wilda and so on and so on.

Scripture warns us pretty sternly about our presumption when it comes to judging others (Matthew 7:1–5) and stresses instead that our calling is to exercise graciousness and humility and leave the work of judgment to God (Romans 12:14–21). I’ve been told that we ought to hate what God hates, but in my experience, what that all too often means is that we want to believe that God hates what and who we do, thus justifying ourselves, our attitudes and responses. One writer said that chances are, if we believe God coincidentally hates all the things we hate and despises all the people we despise, we just might have a made an idol out of our own self-righteousness.

There are many injustices and wrongs in this world that I believe are worth hating, and which I believe God passionately hates. Yet I know that there are also no end of evil impulses, impure attitudes and tragic flaws of judgment and behavior in my own life that are not only worthy of hate—both mine and that of the Lord—but which, I pray, represent my desperate need for a mercy and grace which I cannot earn and which comes only through the compassion and provision of God. In fact, my only prayer and hope is that while my sins are worthy of God’s hate, in his kindness, God has chosen to love this poor sinner and to forgive me.

I want to hate the things God hates, and wherever possible so to live that God’s truth, healing and grace may work through me with redeeming power. It’s too easy just to hate as an end in itself. Perhaps that is why, with his dying breathe, our Saviour did not curse his butchers but prayed forgiveness upon them. And us.

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