Most of us have been educated by “tradition.” That is, we have adopted what Christianity has ascribed to many of the writings in the Bible. The letter called 1 John (first John) is commonly believed to be written by the Apostle John, one of Jesus’ chosen twelve, the son of Zebedee, and “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Unfortunately, the text of 1 John (first John) or that of the other two letters so numbered do not bear John’s name or any other name. They are anonymous. This first letter was probably written in Ephesus between 95 and 110 AD. The writer advises Christians on how to discern true teachers: by their ethics, their proclamation of Jesus in the flesh, and by their love. This letter makes a bold statement about hate.
(1 John 4:20)1NIV New International Version Translations – Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
The subject of hatred and its impact on the human heart are well supported in Scripture. Hate made its first appearance in Genesis 4:8 – “Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.” Abel was victim to one of the most common causes of hatred: envy. Today, envy over social status, wealth, resources, and other advantages continues to pit people against one another. Why is it important for us to look at the topic of hatred? We have just witnessed political hatred at its worst, and it does not look like it will get better any time soon. Our study verse clearly says that if we hate, we are nothing but liars and cannot love God. It was our God who established the “first principles” such as law, government, education, politics, and economics, all to be discovered by “common sense.” Because hatred seeks to censure and stop all free discussion, a prerequisite to “common sense, hatred is dangerous.
While envy is just one of the many causes of hatred, most oftentimes, hatred is fueled by fear based upon ignorance. As people who claim their salvation in Christ, there is an expectation that we will do all we can to discern God’s Truth and not become prejudiced individuals who twist, distort, misinterpret, or even ignore facts that conflict with our predetermined opinions. Fortunately, we find clarity right in 1 John again, right before the writer tells us about hatred:
(1 John 4:1) – “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
How then, in a world filled with information, media, and biased and false news, does one discern truth? I have written on this before, but it is worth repeating. David Barton is a New York Times best-selling author. In his writings, he states that the world is quite creative in its deception and perversion of facts. These same perversions are being applied to our Bible too. Barton lists seven strategies that are being used to reprogram us against ourselves.
- Historical Negativism – An accurate presentation of history depends on the telling of the good with the bad, an honest, balanced presentation of events, people, or periods. Our history is not all bad! (2 Timothy 3:16) – “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
- Relativism – This asserts that in history, religion, culture, and law are not absolute. Values are to be determined individually, and personal standards trump traditional ones, thus allowing subjectivity and feelings to prevail over objectivity. This attitude would claim that our Constitution is old and out of date and the Bible has no relevance to society today. Nothing could be farther from the truth!
- Anti-nationalism -This is the constant undermining of patriotism or the love of one’s country. Remember, we are the only country on earth that people risk their lives to get into. People are free to leave yet few ever do! The fact that people love God is a good thing, not a bad thing.
- Rejection of American Exceptionalism – This rejects the idea that America is blessed and enjoys unprecedented stability, prosperity, and liberty because of unique ideas such as God-given inalienable rights, individualism, limited government, and an educated, virtuous citizenry. I am still waiting to find a history book somewhere better than America!
- Modernism is the malpractice of examining past events and people as if they occurred and lived today rather than in the past. Modernists destroy monuments, deface historical sites, and protest everything good. Lose the past, and you will lose your purpose and direction! Lose the Bible and you will lose an eternity with God.
- Minimalism – The unreasonable insistence on oversimplification, on reducing all things to political rhetoric and one-line slogans, forgetting the complexities of history. Open and honest dialogue requires time for “both” sides to discuss their concerns after they first understand each other’s! Hate censors the truth.
- Rigid Secularism – The constant misrepresentation of the influences of religion in American History. Our history has recognized that all must have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. Faith, the belief in a Creator, exists in every culture on earth. Who planted that belief in the hearts of men? World history tells us over and over that America is unique—believe it or not, what you believe in is totally up to you. Let us not lose that right to choose!
Discernment takes work. You can never believe one person, one channel, or one source. Proverbs tells us:
(Proverbs 26:24-26) – “Enemies disguise themselves with their lips, but in their hearts, they harbor deceit. Though their speech is charming, do not believe them, for seven abominations fill their hearts. Their malice may be concealed by deception, but their wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.”
The “assembly” was the Temple, the place of leadership during Solomon’s time. It is insightful to see that charm and false statements are nothing new and that the way to discern is to look and not listen. It is easy to deceive with words. History has proven it. However, observation then needs to become the foundation of a discerning life. Is your world better or worse? Is your life safer, or are you more afraid for your family? Can you freely worship your God, share your faith, and raise your children as you wish? And are you leading a hope-filled life? Today, all of us live in a world that has accepted the concept of science. It has improved our lives immensely. What does it take to be proven by science? It must be observable and repeatable! Now apply these same principles to life itself. God is there, just waiting for you to see Him.
Hatred today is spawned from anxiety and a lack of hope. Anxiety is driven by the anticipation of terror; hope, however, can only come from God. God asks us to choose the things we do wisely and the leaders we pick based on our observations of their deeds, not their words. God’s instructions are not confusing.
(Galatians 5:19-21) – “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
(Hebrews 12:14-15) – “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
- Where do you get information from?
- Ideas to Explore: How reliable is the Internet? When searching a topic for information, is there a bias in the results? Can the significance of events be altered by selective editing of a simple news story? Do you try to always get information from multiple sources on both sides of an issue? Do people use sources that agree with their own bias?
- Who do you hate?
- Ideas to Explore: Is there hatred in your heart? How did it get there, by your observation or by the observations of others? Do you censure information just by remembering and discussing what agrees with your own opinion? What is the impact of parents on the hatred and biases of children?
- What do you think God’s Truth is?
- Ideas to Explore: What basic tenets do you think God will never relinquish? How do you learn God’s Truth? What is your responsibility when you see God’s Truth being abused? Can humankind decide what God’s Truth should be?
- How is hate between two people or two countries broken down and replaced by love?
- Ideas to Explore: God is clear: we must love our enemies. How does that work? Can we patiently listen to someone who does not agree with our point of view? Can two people agree to disagree and still respect each other? What does such respect look like?
- Has social media made it easier or harder for people to respect each other?
- Ideas to Explore: Is it a requirement or a demand that people agree with? Are posts poison, or are posts opening the minds of both others and your own to all sides of issues? How is humor hurtful or damaging?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations