Wednesday, May 4, 2016

When you hate the beloved of God

Yesterday I considered the following passage from 1 John:

Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another (4:11).

I noted that this verse invites an interpretation in light of the Christian doctrine of theosis. If God loves all people, and if he works for the good of all people and ultimately for their salvation, then my calling to live in love towards others is really a call to arms: God wishes me to work alongside him, or perhaps it is better to say that God wishes to work in the world through me. This is the highly dignifying and exalting call of Christianity: to present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God and instruments of righteousness (Rom 6:13).

There is another corollary of this, however. When I live and act out of love, I am used by God to further his salvific purposes and providential goals in the world. But what if instead of loving, I live in hate? What if instead of loving, I live in an attitude of indifference towards others? What follows then? The outcome is a grave one: I find myself opposing God and working, whether knowingly or not, to impede his providential purposes! I make myself into an enemy of God!

John puts it like this, though the context is slightly different: everyone who loves the parent loves the child (5:1). If you do not love the child, or worse, if you hate the child, then you have put yourself up against the parent. This is something to which we can all relate: the enemies of our children or of our spouses or of our best friends are our enemies; we don't stand idly by while someone tries to harm the people we love. What can we expect, then, if we turn out to hate the very person whom God loves, and whose salvation God desires, and for whom Christ died?

This is why hating a brother or a sister is such a grave and mortal sin: because through doing this, we turn ourselves against God. This is why John says that whoever does not love abides in death (3:14). When we fail to love, we turn ourselves against God and his providential purposes. What can the result be, except that we will be lost forever unless we turn and repent? No one who hates or who fails to love can be saved.

We have to take a close look at ourselves and search ourselves to see if we are not harboring any fatal hatred or indifference in our hearts which will separate us from God. I learned the lesson this weekend in a hard way that I don't have God's love in my heart many times. I respond out of fear, or out of contempt, or out of indifference, or out of coldness to the approach of another person. Rather than exercising simple hospitality and welcoming a person's advent into my life, I close myself off coldly -- for whatever reason, it is not always clear. This is a grave sin, and I realized that my primary orientation towards the world and towards others is not love, as it should be, but rather something else. Lord have mercy! God help me to cast out this darkness and to be filled instead with light; only this way can I or anyone else be saved.

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