“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35, emphasis mine).
Instagram recommends photos and videos to its users based on who you follow and what you’ve “liked” in the past, and usually I see a slew of Scripture verses and motivational messages, lots of worship music, and videos of food being stirred in slow motion—okay, that one’s kind of gross. And recently I have also been getting a few messages communicating the unadulterated hate of certain ministries and ministers who promote a very happy Christianity.
This breaks my heart because I happen to be very encouraged by some of the messages and books from such ministers.
Admittedly, there exist numerous ministries that are controversial because of the supposed lack of Christocentric theology. Some embrace these ministries like a welcome oasis in a world where we are bombarded with bad news and heartache, and others openly teach that such ministries are comprised of false prophets looking to line their pockets. Oh, my!
But wherever your opinion lands on the spectrum—if you have an opinion at all–what baffles me most and grieves the Holy Spirit immensely is the proud hate of fellow Christians. May I use a bit of strong language to emphasize the severity of this? Hateful behavior against another Christian (or anyone) is downright demonic. And the fact that such hate is so blatantly advertised on Instagram, in sermons, in tweets, in conversation—I shudder, and the Holy Spirit weeps!
Now, I realize “hate” is a buzzword in today’s Western culture and has so diminished in meaning that a mere difference of opinion is immediately labeled hatred. And this post is not targeting the hate against minority groups, against immigrants, or against sin. This post is not political in nature. No, this post is specifically targeting the hate against fellow Christians, especially against certain ministries and ministers that promote the ‘very happy Christianity’ I alluded to earlier.
What is the appropriate, Biblical response from an emotionally healthy believer to such ministers, if you disagree with them?
First, as my brother-in-law, friend, and patient, patient man Ben Bock reminded me recently, our struggle is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12).
A person’s crusade against a particular ministry is oftentimes misguided in light of this truth. My battle is not against another preacher, nor is yours. Our battle is against Satan, the enemy of God and accuser of the believers. The Spirit of God will help us to despise evil and sin, but to forgive, pray for, and legitimately love everyone on the planet, including those we dislike and disagree with (Luke 6:27-36).
Maybe I will have Ben write a bit more about this in the future.
Second, no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 12:3).
This might be more important than we realize. I have heard controversial ministers confess humbly that Jesus is Lord—and do you know what that means? They are believers! They are family! No matter how controversial the person was or is, God Himself has enabled that person to make this beautiful claim! And a Christian, by the nature of what this means, cannot be a “false prophet” or some sort of cult leader.
Maybe they don’t preach about the topics that you’d prefer to listen to, or maybe their theology differs a little (or a lot) from yours, but one of the the non-negotiables (i.e., Jesus being God and King) is still the common denominator.
Third, and this might be something Americans have long forgotten, but God institutes all leaders, good and bad.
That particular minister whose ideology you disagree with? God appointed her. God appointed him. Romans 13:1 makes a wild statement: “There is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” So whether you enjoy and support that person’s ministry or not, God has ordained it. And furthermore, “Whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:2).
If you find yourself badmouthing a certain ministry, you are badmouthing God’s sovereign decision. It is an exceedingly dangerous and stony heart that assumes it knows better than God.
As I wrap up here (wow, I didn’t mean for this post to be so long—thanks for sticking with me!!), let me point out again that opening verse, John 13:35… We will be known by our love for fellow Christians. What sort of Gospel witness is it to the world if they observe us slandering our brothers and shooting our own wounded? But, what sort of Gospel witness is it to the world if they observe us loving one another? Submitting to one another? Speaking kindly about one another? Lifting up our brothers and lowering self?
An angry heart is just not fitting for one who has received his second birth. Slandering on Twitter and Instagram against certain ministers is oftentimes the equivalent of hollering angry exclamations at your favorite football team who happens to be losing, all from the comfort of your couch: it doesn’t help the cause at all.
Keep in mind: what unites us is infinitely stronger than what may divide us.
And if you feel you legitimately have a grievance against a brother, the Word of God would advise you to be extremely discreet (Matthew 18:15), humble, and hopeful. Protect your brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us honor one another.
So with that—no more of this hate against other believers. Let us be known far and wide by the generous and self-sacrificing love we have for one another. This will prove that we have begun to look like Christ… and Christ is exactly what the world (and the Church) needs more of.