Jesus will build his church (Matthew 16:18). The church has been designed from its inception to be the hope of the world. God the Father sent God the Son to this earth to live a holy life, to teach us how to live, to die on a cruel cross as an atoning sacrifice for our sins, to rise from death, to ascend to heaven, to send God the Holy Spirit for us as we engage in the mission of proclaiming in words and actions that there is new life in Jesus.
So, the church is being the church when: lives are changed; hatreds are overcome; failures are forgiven; grace overwhelms and melts hard hearts; selfishness is diminished; compassion grows into an immense hope that Christ is doing just as he said he would do – build his church. When the church is working right it is the hope of the world because it is: experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit to rejoice with those who rejoice and cry with those who cry; lifting holy hands in prayer and praise to the God who loves us; and, reaching-out with heartfelt mercy to those who desperately need this good news that Jesus has graciously forgiven all our sin through his once for all death on a cross.
The church is meant to love, not hate (1 John 3:14).
“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers and sisters. Anyone who does not love remains in death.” I need to ask this question because the Word of God demands it: Do you hate anyone? The Scripture tells us that hate means we are still dead, not alive. Love is the distinguishing mark of the believer in Jesus Christ. The person with hate has so many barnacles built up on their underside that they cannot move at all through the water of life with any joy or fulfillment. What is more, they are dragging down the rest of the fleet that seeks to move in concert together in the love of Jesus.
Jesus Christ did not die on the cross so that we could hate someone, or a group of people. Christ died so that you could love. If love does not characterize your life, you are dead. That means you are separated from God. That sounds serious, and it is. Hate has absolutely no place in the church whatsoever. “Anyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him” (1 John 3:15).
As followers of Jesus, we not only should love, but we should not put up with hate in the fellowship of believers. You are under no obligation whatsoever to listen to hateful speech and allow hateful actions because the church is meant to be a reflection of God’s loving and healing acceptance of people. It is not the loving thing to do to let others spew hate in front of you, no matter who they are. Maybe you could respond to hateful words by saying, “Sounds to me like you need to let God pressure-wash some barnacles off your heart.”
If you keep having the same conversation with someone over and over again; if every time you raise a new idea, the same person lists three reasons why it will never work; if fondness for the past exceeds passion for the future; if small things always become big things; if someone chronically complains to you; and, if there is never any love behind what someone says to you; then, there is hate behind it all and it just might be that such a person needs to hear the gospel of grace and be delivered from their life of sin.
Every church on God’s good earth must have a zero-tolerance policy toward hate, and a 100% commitment to love. God has not called us to hate anyone, but to love. The church is only the hope of the world when it loves others. The world will know that there is a God in heaven, and a Christ in the church, when people within local congregations love one another, when particular Christian denominations go out of their way to bless others, and when the love of Jesus compels us to drip grace on the most unlovely of people. Indeed, they will know we are Christians by our love.