But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate (Revelation 2:6).
Admiral William F. Halsey told his troops: “Kill Japs, Kill Japs, Kill more Japs.” Two thousand years earlier, someone else said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:43,44)
It may appear that the two commands contrast hate with love. If so, we know that if we must choose, we better side with the One at the highest level in the chain-of-command. However, a closer look shows that any contradiction is of our own making. There is a place for hate in the life of a Christian. Jesus hates. He commends some who hate.
But he alone “paints the target” for hatred. The crosshairs are to be on the sin. Not the sinner. We might say it is only natural to hate someone who hates us. Such hatred is energized when that someone is trying to kill us. “Hate the sin but love the sinner” is easier to say than to do. Actually, it is impossible without the powerful guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Lord God both gives the command and provides the example. We cherish the words, “God so loved the world…” We easily overlook that those who made up the world were his enemies who embraced sin. We grimace at the thought of sinless Jesus being tortured and executed. Yet his response was, “Father, forgive them!” So we gladly quote the famous saying, “To err is human, to forgive, divine.”
We know that love and forgiveness are characteristic marks of the holy God. But we admit these traits are not natural to us. Thus, we need forgiveness for the forgiveness we do not offer to others. This we understand. But how does hate fit into all of this? We note that Jesus commended the Christians at Ephesus for hating—not the Nicolaitans—but what they were doing. That’s a critical difference. We don’t know much about those Nicolaitans. We assume they were teaching and living contrary to the Word of God. Thus, they were a threat to God’s people.
We understand threats. We know sometimes the threat is to one’s very life, physical or spiritual. We realize such threats must either be avoided or neutralized. Sometimes, threats must be eliminated by force. Sometimes, the force must be deadly. Warriors know that. They must train for that. They must plan for that. Emotions become involved. But the emotions must be controlled. That’s part of the training. Non-combatants may be surprised to learn some veterans of battles-past have returned to meet with former enemies—whom they now respect. Whom they even treat now as friends.
They ask, “You once tried to kill each other, and now you’re shaking hands? How can that be?”
The answer is, the threat is gone. Only the person is left. Love what God loves, and hate what God hates!
The psalmist said it best: “Let those who love the Lord hate evil” (Psalm 97:10). It’s as simple as that.
We pray: Holy Spirit, Jesus said you would guide us into all truth. We surely need that guidance. You are the power from on high. We surely need that power. Enable us to recognize evil of every kind, and fight against it fiercely. Help us to reflect your love even to those who are against us. We pray that our enemies may become our allies in the fight against evil. We pray for peace. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain
and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, MN
Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military