One of the biggest threats our soul encounters is the temptation to resent our opponents. In fact, many people have lost their eternal soul because they were consumed with hate, rather than filled with the love of God. So what is filling your heart today: God’s love in Christ, or a simmering hatred for others?
Hatred corrupts the soul, hardens the heart, and messes with the mind. You cannot think straight when hatred is present, and you definitely cannot live straight. The choice to hate someone only increases resentment and bitterness. The root of this hatred is self-righteousness, which essentially says: “Other people are the problem. They are the sinners, but not me. I have not sinned.”
Few things seem to produce as much hatred as political disagreements. Political strife often turns people against one another. Rancor develops among family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors. It is one thing to disagree on policy. After all, some policies are unjust, unwise and unfair. But a major problem arises when we allow these disagreements to become personal. If we are not careful, we start to develop a growing animosity toward those with whom we disagree. And at that point, our soul enters the danger zone.
Scripture warns us: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar” (1 John 4:19). “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness” (1 John 2:9). Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
It is one thing to judge an idea. It is another thing altogether to judge a person. We become guilty of judging someone when we place ourselves above them and assume that their sin is greater than our own. Rather than sincerely praying for their repentance, judging typically involves condemning someone to Hell in our mind and assuming they are beyond the reach of God’s mercy.
The Apostle Paul warned the Christians in Rome about the danger of judging others. “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things” (Romans 2:1).
If you wish to condemn yourself and receive God’s wrath and punishment when you stand before Jesus on Judgment Day, then judge others. Hold grudges. Hate your political opponents. Fill your heart with hatred rather than God’s love. That is, if you are determined to go to Hell when you die rather than to Heaven.
Paul went on to write:
“When you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed” (Romans 2:3-5).
You and I will stand before the Lord one day to be held responsible for the life we lived on Earth. “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Those who choose to live in hatred rather than in God’s love will receive God’s wrath and punishment. If we choose to hate and do not repent, God will show us no mercy on the last day. You might think, “That sounds terribly harsh!” Yes it does. You see, God’s wrath goes far beyond what we would expect, just as God’s mercy goes far beyond what we would expect. The Lord graciously offers forgiveness to everyone who turns to Christ in repentance and faith.
You could pray these words right now: “Lord, please forgive me for hating my opponents. Wash away my sins with the blood you shed for me on the cross. And change my heart. Replace my hatred with your love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
In fact, I would encourage you to offer that prayer every day until your bitterness has been fully replaced with love. Continue going to God with your sin. Don’t allow hatred in your heart to destroy your soul, especially after everything Jesus did on the cross to rescue you from sin and from eternal punishment in Hell.
We are all susceptible to arrogance, anger and resentment toward others. These wicked attitudes flow from our sinful nature. (Romans 7:18) But always remember: Your sinful nature is not your heart, and your heart is not your sinful nature. You can experience a pure and loving heart in spite of the fact that you still have your old nature within you. Thankfully, those who turn to Christ in repentance and faith are “set free from sin” (Romans 6:18).
As a believer in Jesus and a follower of Christ, you are free to choose love and to reject resentment and hatred. Pray to God as you renounce your sin. Turn away from your hatred as you confess it to the Lord. Ask Jesus to replace your anger with His love. The Messiah turns haters into people of peace, love and kindness. (Galatians 5:22,23)
Will you and I renounce any resentment in our heart today? Will we choose to confess our sins to God? And will we choose to pray for our political opponents, rather than judge them?
While following Christ is not easy, it is the only way to experience God’s love in this world and in the world to come. You could start right now with this simple prayer: “Wash me, Jesus, with your precious blood.” After all, humble sinners see their own sins as being larger than the sins of their opponents.
Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska.