“And don't hit your brother.”
“It's not fair! You hate me! You never let me do anything.”
I hear the word “hate” being thrown around a lot lately, particularly in the context of people rebuking Christians for our often socially unpopular standpoint on a number of subjects. Lately the issue of gay marriage, along with other issues like abortion and euthanasia, but these are only the issues that are in the spotlight at the moment, there have been plenty of others and no doubt there will be more.
My dictionary defines “to hate” as: “to feel intense or passionate dislike for something or someone.” In the little dialogue I created above, the child accuses the parent of hating her; of being hateful. But any adult will recognise that the parent in this situation is actually showing love to the child. They are trying to teach them in this case to eat foods that are good for their body and to control their emotions rather than lash out in anger and hurt people nearby.
These are good and important lessons for the child, but to the child they just look like a curtailing of her personal freedom. In her state of immaturity, she is not fully aware of the physical and social consequences this kind of behaviour will have on her future, she has no frame of reference for that kind of thinking.
Proverbs 3:11f : "My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights."
1 Corinthians 13:9-12: "Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely."
If we put God in the role of the parent in the dialogue, we find the scene to be uncomfortably familiar. God comes along and, through Christ and his Church, He proclaims to humanity, “I love you, but you must know that your behaviour is sinful and destructive. You need to change.”
This approach is all predicated on the idea that each person knows what is good for them and should be trusted to do it without any prompting. Think for a moment how many things you are aware of that you ought to do for the benefit of your health, or your family, or your work, that you simply chose not to do. We, as humans, are very good at justifying our choices not to do things that we ought to do.
Like the child in the dialogue, we don't have the necessary perspective to see what benefit or harm we do to our lives by our action or inaction. And like the child we get angry with God for telling us what we should and shouldn't do. We accuse God of being hateful toward us because he stands in the way of the freedom we covet, when he is only interested in helping us to grow into the person he made us to be, which is ultimately for our own highest good.
Some people start with the line of reasoning that “god is love” therefore God does not hate because hate is the opposite of love. Therefore these “hateful” things the scripture seems to say must not be what God really said. Therefore I should look for another interpretation of what God meant by what he said.
Then the media, celebrities, theologians, preachers, and other assorted gurus take this idea of reinterpreting-scripture-for-a-tolerant-society, package it, and sell it under the same slogan the serpent sold to Eve in Eden, “did God really mean to say ______?” and all the people with itching ears lap it up and call it 'wisdom' because it seems to agree with them.
Being a Christian is not about reinterpreting God's words to suit us, but rather letting his words change us to suit his design for us.
Romans 12:2: "Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."