As the oldest son of one Robert W. Helton and his darling wife, Peggy, little Mark Allen (me) was not aloud to use the word “hate” in the Helton home…nor were Brian and Joy (my brother and sister) for that matter. Theoretically, I was not allowed to hate anything. I was free to dislike or not care for things like broccoli or Christmas fruitcake…but I sure couldn’t hate them. Charles Manson was evil personified when I was a boy. But I was only able to not like him…hating even him was off limits…as officially stated in the Helton home’s “policies and procedures” manual. 🙂 The reason for this was stated clearly: Jesus loves us…He doesn’t hate…and neither should we. (But I’ve always secretly wondered how He would feel about Christmas fruitcake) 🙂
Despite my parents’ best effort to keep me from hating…I still managed to keep hate alive. My dad was a devout Ford man…and since I wanted to be like him in every way, I “strongly disliked” Dodge and Chevrolet. My dad loved the Miami Dolphins…so, naturally, I “strongly disliked” the New England Patriots (proud to say I still do). Our whole family loved the Tennessee Vols so I ended up “strongly disliking Alabama and Florida (again proud to say I still do). If you forced me to show my hand I would have to humbly admit I’ve hated a great deal throughout my life. To be fair, I’ve tried to love as Jesus commanded…I think most Christians really do. But where there is an opportunity to love…there also lies an opportunity to hate.
In short, hate comes easy in a culture like ours where the individual’s beliefs, thoughts, and feelings heavily outweigh those around him. I read recently that the biggest sin in the current world is to disagree with “me.” Once the disagreement has been voiced, freedom to hate becomes the logical next step. Obviously, this type of environment puts the church in a very challenging predicament. The easiest response would be to fall in and follow suit…in other words, think and act like our culture and hate back! Nike’s motto of “Just Do It” has become much more than a challenging sports statement. In many ways it is the new United States motto. You have to admit, that’s a big leap from “In God We Trust.” It would seem Christians are asked everyday to take yet another step backwards or to give up fundamental beliefs even our own nation’s forefathers held sacred. The influx of countless various “religions” into our nation have only helped to make easier for our citizens to think Christianity is simply another religion on the buffet of beliefs. Pick one…point and click. Don’t sweat it…they’re all the same. It doesn’t matter which one you pick…they will all take you to the same place……….or will they?
My parents were right when they taught the Helton kids that Jesus loves us. They were right in reminding us that it was because God loved the world that He sent Jesus to die for sinners like us. The sentences in the paragraph above likely angered some of our readers. Some would argue the nation is progressing and that Christianity would be better suited for the previous outdated generations. I confess this entire line of discussion can make the Christian’s blood boil. However, we must not allow that to happen. If we are not careful, hatred will become much more than a commonly used word. In fact it might become the primary word used to describe the Christians who are allegedly representing Jesus in the world.
The question then becomes obvious…what do we do? How do we respond? The answer is not as complicated as you might think. We go back to the basics of the Gospel. God loves the world. Out of His great love, He sent Jesus into the world as a sacrificial lamb to die in the place of those whose faith would rest in Him. He accomplished what He set out to do. The divisions of politics, religion, and like have always been present…and they always will be. We have been asked to love God and love others–not hate. Hate is easy and may even seem warranted, but the Gospel teaches us something different. The apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” This is exactly what happens when Christians feast on their anger over the current situation. Hate becomes easy and “justifiable” in our self-righteous minds. Fortunately the Scriptures are our guide…not our emotions.
May God help us all to see that hating is not the answer. As new creations (2 Cor 5:17) the old nature no longer calls the shots. We are to love…because we have been loved…plain and simple. If hate has become commonplace in your day to day life, I would encourage you to stop and consider what this means. Don’t allow yourself to “get used to it.” We cannot effectively represent Christ if we give in to the hatred around us. As a recipient of the greatest of all loves…may we share that same love with those we come into contact with.
Epilogue (and totally irrelevant): I now like broccoli…have for years. Go figure. Also, I drive a Kia, my wife drives a Hyundai, and my son a Nissan. I no longer “hate” Dodge or Chevrolet…though I love giving my Chevy-loving buddy “Justin A” a hard time. 🙂 🙂 The Patriots, the Gators, and the Tide were created to be hated, but I’m proud to say I don’t hate them…but I really, really, really, really don’t like them…none…at all. 🙂 🙂 🙂 Finally, concerning the aforementioned Christmas fruitcake…do I really need to say it? Ha! Ha!
Blessings to all. Thanks again Monticello!
🙂 🙂 🙂