I never thought I would title an article to include the word “hate”. Hate goes against so much of the gospel message, which is about love. However, it occurred to me today that there is a place for hate as well. This is a hatred of anything that comes between us and God, because of God’s great love for us. Hating the things that separate us from a deeper relationship with God is actually a way we show love to ourselves and to Him.
It is the eve of a new year. Many people are resolving to do things differently in 2020. Correcting bad habits, getting healthier, taking small steps towards what they believe can change the world…it is good to be convicted in this season to do better with the opportunities we have. Many people are seeking to give up vices, or idols, although most would not call them idols. Most people recognize that there is something in their life that needs changing, but even few Christians remember that these things can become idols or masters over parts of our lives.
An idol is anything that comes between us and God. An idol, whether we like to admit it or not, is a master over us and we serve it. An addiction, a distracting habit, a relationship, fear…these can all be idols and masters over us. Some idols are obvious sin, like lust. But something can be innocent by itself, and if God asks us to give it up and we do not, it becomes an idol and therefore sinful.
As I was waiting in the Starbucks drive thru line this morning, I was mulling over this coming new year and things I’d like to change. I have some habits in my life that I’ve been convicted to change for quite some time, but I haven’t quite managed to. I’ve prayed about them over the last year and I’ve tried to take some practical steps towards better habits. Yet, I still find myself bowing to these masters in my life. I pray “God, why won’t you just change this for me? Why won’t you just transform me so I am a more productive servant? I give these things to you—I value you above them.”
Why haven’t I been delivered when I’ve asked to be delivered?
But then I look down at my spiritual hands and see that although my arms are outstretched in an effort to hand these things over to God, my fingers are still clenched. I have adopted the posture of surrender, but not the heart. It’s as though Abraham held up a rubber knife over Isaac to say “See, Lord, I will sacrifice my son”, but in reality the weapon would do no harm. It’s like saying with our words “Lord, I will give this up if you want me to…”, but secretly hoping that He isn’t going to ask us to and pretending we don’t hear when He does.
God sees through our bluffs.
While waiting for my coffee I continued to ponder why, if my mind is determined, can I not make these changes? Deep down I realized the answer. On paper, I want to be changed. In theory, I want to be made new. But, in reality, I don’t want to make the actual sacrifices necessary.
I haven’t found the will to truly surrender these things because I don’t actually hate them. I like their comfort and their familiarity. I don’t know what to replace them with, so I unconsciously avoid that unknown. I may want to be stronger in my faith, or be more obedient in my walk, but these habits continue to stunt my spiritual growth because I continue to love them in a dysfunctional kind of way. I want them to remain a part of my life while serving God.
Jesus said “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24) He goes on to talk about not serving both God and money, but I believe that His statement applies to any two masters in our lives.
If I go into this new year thinking that the fresh start of 2020 is going to transform my life, I’m not going to get very far in my goals. If I continue to have a posture of faux-surrender, I’m not going to truly allow God to take over these parts of me I’ve kept from Him. If I continue to love my idols and masters, then am I loving the Lord with all of my heart, soul, and mind?
I have decided that in order to move forward, I need to learn to hate my idols. I need to despise any master that is not God. I need to find the righteous indignation that led Jesus to turn over tables in the temple. I am allowed to hate sin and be angry at its consequences!
You, dear Friend, are also allowed to hate your sin and idols. Maybe your other master is fear—learn to hate it because it causes you to doubt God’s faithfulness. Maybe your idol is an addiction—decide to hate it because it prevents you from reaching your full potential of God’s calling in your life. Maybe you worship your time and use it for your own pleasure instead of God’s glory. Choose to despise these habits that waste what God has given you.
Ask God to help you see these idols and masters through His eyes. Ask Him to give you a Heavenly perspective so that you will be motivated to hate sin and cling to God instead. Ask Him to help you recognize when you are putting something before Him. When faced with the temptation to serve anything but God, remember that we can choose our master.
Hate can be a tricky word, especially for a Christian. We are called to love, love, and love some more. However, to avoid hate when it is appropriate is to become lukewarm. It is to become tolerant of things we should not tolerate. Jesus clearly says that we must hate the one master, in order to love the other. Which will we choose to hate? With just a passive attitude towards our idols we lack true motivation to destroy them and therefore allow them to weaken our relationship with God. God hates anything that comes between us and Him, therefore I should too. That’s where I’ve been stuck—saying that I want change, but not seeing the idol through God’s eyes.
For me, as I try to learn to hate these habits that prevent me from moving forward in my walk with God, I’m going to continually remind myself: I choose Jesus to be my Master. I choose Jesus over unproductive sleep patterns. I choose Jesus over unhealthy foods. I choose Jesus over anxiety. I choose Jesus over games on my phone. I choose Jesus over unkind words. I choose Jesus over fear of rejection. I choose Jesus over the obvious sins, and I choose Him over the sins that come from unwillingness to follow my convictions.
As we enter into 2020, what are you going to choose Jesus over? What are you going to learn to hate?