Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. [Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT)]
I walked into the university workout facility and was greeted by a large sign telling me the school says no to hate. I was surprised that a Christian University felt the need to say what should be obvious. Has hate become so much a part of our everyday lives that we have to be reminded not to do it? There wasn’t a sign telling us not to pee in the pool, have fist fights, or swear. Evidently, certain acceptable behavior was assumed but not hating wasn’t! Apparently, the sign is necessary because people feel freer to express their prejudice, intolerance, and bias than do any of those other things.
Monday, Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker re-established a task force on hate crimes. It will advise him on issues such as the prevalence, deterrence and prevention of hate crimes and support for hate’s victims. In 2015, the state had 424 hate crimes including intimidation, vandalism and assault. The Massachusetts Anti-Defamation League found a 44% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the first nine months of 2017 and the state’s hate crime hotline has received more than 2,000 calls since it began just a year ago.
One look at the news tells us that Massachusetts is not alone. Hate (and its cousin anger) make the headlines regularly—violence in Charlottesville, a sport star’s home vandalized with racial slurs, Asian-Americans told they don’t belong here, swastikas painted on Jewish temples, and a Texas mosque burned to the ground. Trucks become weapons in the hands of extremists and shootings in theatres, shopping centers, schools, concerts and churches almost seem commonplace. Last night, a local pastor was interviewed about the large security/safety staff now present during any church function. His church is not alone; many places of worship have felt the need to protect themselves from haters.
Hate can express itself in subtle ways through slurs, intolerance, intimidation, harassment, marginalization, and exclusion. Hate is also a crime when a criminal offense is motivated by race, ethnicity, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religion, or disability. Whether or not a crime is committed, in God’s book, hate is an offense. Worse, hate is like an infectious disease—the victim of hate often becomes a hater himself!
As Christians we are allowed to hate evil. We can and should hate things like hypocrisy, godlessness, violence, greed, immorality, exploitation, dishonesty, brutality, deceit, abuse, idolatry, betrayal, false teaching, corruption, intolerance, and hate. What we must never do is hate people. Rather than hate, we are commanded to love and that love isn’t limited to Christians or people who think, look, speak or act like us. We are to love all of God’s children. There’s plenty that’s wrong in our broken world; let’s not add to it by spreading hate through bigotry, intolerance, racism, discrimination or prejudice. We shouldn’t need a sign that tells us to say no to hate. Let us be the ones who demonstrate God’s love in this broken world of ours.