I’ve been exploring the Book of John—paradigm-shifting as usual—and this time around I’m particularly arrested by the attitudes of the religious leaders toward Jesus. There is such utter, volatile hatred—and what’s so alarming is how justified the religious leaders feel in hating Jesus.
Hatred is not always wrong. God hates robbery (Isaiah 61:8), slaughtering children to idols (Deuteronomy 12:31), divorce (Malachi 2:16), the plotting of evil against a person (Zechariah 8:17), false witnesses who love to lie (Proverbs 6:16-19), and basically all wickedness. Certainly “God is love” (1 John 4:8), but Love inarguably hates anything that disrupts love or that hurts the beloved. For example, because I love my (future) wife, I would hate it if she were to get caught up in a dangerous drug addiction (God forbid).
Generally, though, hatred is to be reserved for sin and sin only. We are not to hate any person or group of people, even those who may hate us, persecute us, or wrong us (Matthew 5:44). We are not to hate our leaders, bosses, political oversight, and those in authority over us. We are not to hate those who sin in the so-called “big” ways. Why? Well, let’s circle back to the attitudes of the religious leaders who hated Jesus.
Here are a few principles I’ve noticed, based on the hatred of the religious leaders toward Jesus in the Book of John:
1. Hatred blinds a person from recognizing spiritual truth.
John 7:45-48, among many other Scriptures in John, indicates that the religious leaders were so blinded by hate—blinded by hate—that they were unable to see Jesus for who He was and is: the Son of God, the promised King. Their hatred caused them to miss God.
Hatred dulls the hater from perceiving spiritual matters. Hatred blocks spiritual discernment and disconnects the hater from recognizing Jesus’ voice. Soon, the person filled with hatred will begin operating from a Godless place, unable to hear Him and receive Him, regardless of how justified he feels his hatred may be. And ultimately, a person harboring hatred will unwittingly condemn his own self to separation from God.
2. Hatred deceives the hater.
In John 8:48, some religious leaders exclaim to Jesus one of the most absurdly incorrect statements I’ve ever read: “You’re demon-possessed!” Face-to-face conversations with God Himself did not transform those religious leaders with hatred festering in their souls! Can you imagine? In fact, they found a misleading justification for their hatred.
Deception is one the most terrifying things, in my opinion, and hatred is just that. What makes deception so alarming is that a person can die feeling convinced of a certain thing, when in fact she has been duped all along. Hatred will cause her to believe wrong things and thus, behave in wrong ways: she will be so deceived that she will misinterpret Truth, misunderstand Truth, misuse Truth, and eventually miss Truth.
3. Hatred devalues and destroys others.
When I recently read John 8:1-11 again, it horrified me. A sect of religious leaders called Pharisees dragged a sinful woman into the center of town to publicly murder her for her sin—but if that wasn’t bad enough, the woman was actually just a pawn in their plan to trap Jesus! They didn’t actually care whether she lived or died; her life meant nothing to them. They were merely using her as a means to reach their despicable goal of tricking and annihilating Jesus, a plan which backfired of course.
See, hating one person eventually spills out and starts affecting “bystanders.” Hatred stomps all over others, even those who are not the object of the hate. Hatred strips people of value. Hatred destroys anyone and everyone in its path.
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Now, friends, I’m sure that most reading this would quickly say, “Oh, not I.” The idea of hating a person is foreign to the believer, and rightly so, for it is a disastrous poison. But I’d argue that no one often accepts full-grown hatred; instead, he accepts the subtle seeds of hatred. These seeds can be planted unknowingly, little by little, in the form of small cynicism or subtle bitterness or unhealed brokenness. And these ugly symptoms, if left untreated, will give birth to—yes—hatred.
If you’ve been cut to the heart while reading this blog, it would be wise to pause and reflect. Maybe you know you are consumed inside with hatred against a person. Or, maybe the Holy Spirit is illuminating to you where that sarcastic snarl will end up taking you, even if it (deceptively) seems innocent enough right now. Hatred usually has a deep root, and I would encourage you to confide in a trusted mentor or pastor who will prayerfully walk you through to victory.
And do not underestimate the supernatural power of prayer! Why not pray this prayer right now?
“King Jesus, I have believed a lie: that to have ongoing anger against __________ is acceptable. I am sorry, and I thank You for revealing truth to me. In Jesus’ Name, I break agreement with that lie. Your powerful blood, Jesus, is unraveling the roots of hatred in my heart. And where that hatred used to reside, fill me now with peace about the situation with __________. Cause genuine love and forgiveness to spring up inside me, love and forgiveness especially toward __________. Thank You for this work in me! In Your strong Name and with faith I declare: amen!”
There you go—we know that God always answers prayer! He is enthusiastic to build even more love, peace, laughter, hope, and faith into your life.
Receive it, in Jesus’ Name!