My husband and I were privileged to hear Bill Johnson preach on Saturday night. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing and we’re very glad we decided to go!
The entire message was excellent – he taught about Ephesians 3:14,15 – “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” – great stuff. Yet two tiny sentences spoken near the end of the message impacted me the most:
Hate is not an emotion. Hate is authority.
He really didn’t elaborate on the comment (I’d love to hear his take on it sometime), but it hit me like a ton of bricks and I’ve spent the last few days pondering this truth: Love and hate are not merely emotions. They are authority.
We chalk it both love and hate up to emotion – some would even say, “uncontrollable emotion” – but both go far deeper than that. Most emotions and actions can be reduced to a common denominator of “love” or “hate”… it could be said that love is the authority that empowers joy, happiness, compassion, and patience, while hate is the authority that empowers anger, depression, sadness, and fear. And, like most Kingdom principles, we find ourselves in the middle of a paradox:
Hate is the sort of authority that controls you, and sometimes controls the one who is hated.
Love, conversely, is the sort of authority that empowers both us and the recipient of the love. Love also trumps the authority of hate.
There is a difference between disliking something and hating it, and a difference between liking something and loving it. Some people “hate” things they don’t like – “I really hate choruses (or hymns),” or “I hate blue carpet.”. Some people “love” things that they really like. For example, I love fresh, tree-ripened mangoes. But what I really mean is that I like them very much.
We talk about loving and hating things, but really, even when it comes to thinks, we are loving and hating people. What complex relationships we weave!
Some people hate folks who are different from them … hate is the backbone of racism, classism, sexism, violence, abuse, and a whole lot of other ism’s and ills. Other people hate individuals – the ex-wife, the mother-in-law, the evil boss, that person who hurt them… even themselves. Some people love – they love people, they love those who hurt them; even complete strangers sense the love coming their direction.
When we hate someone, we are controlled by that hatred. If one hates their mother-in-law, they will go to great lengths to avoid her. When they can’t avoid her, they will treat her badly. They will speak evil of her to others and try very hard to influence others to come into agreement with us and join in hating her. Conversely, one who loves their mother-in-law will want to spend time with her, treat her well, and will speak well of her and incite others to do likewise. They are able to do this even if they happen to dislike some things she does. See the difference?
Love and hate should not be reduced to matters of personal preference; when we do that, we get out of balance. It takes no authority to dislike blue carpet, or even our mother-in-law, and it’s ok if we do. We are “wired” to prefer certain things over others. Some like vanilla, others like chocolate.
On the other hand, it takes a lot of authority to hate. When we simply dislike something, we have no ownership or control over it. When we hate it, however, we assert “the right” to control it. And when it comes down to it, we may “hate blue carpet” but we express this by hating and controlling those who disagree. (This is why fights erupt in churches over the color of the carpets or the style of the music)
It takes even more authority to love something or someone… and when we love, we relinquish the right to control or manipulate! Love does not seek its own (1 Cor. 13:5).
This is a vitally important Kingdom principle – the authority of hate makes us rulers of everyone around us. We must “assert our rights” and take charge of the situation. The authority of love honors others and makes us servants of all, with “rights” to nothing, honoring and giving preference to others (Philippians 2:3)… the very thing that Jesus did. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
Our original purpose – the purpose Jesus restored us to – is to have dominion through the radical power of love. Hate is a corruption, a perversion, of the influence that gives us dominion.
When we hate a person or organization, we are trying to control them. All of our focus and energy goes into hatred, into seeking that control (ironically, it’s rare that we get our way in these situations; if we do, it’s rarer still that we’re happy about having gotten our way). Hate’s authority then controls us, dictating our actions and fueling our emotions (anger, bitterness, depression, fear). We structure our lives around that negativity. A person who hates will make every effort to insulate and isolate themselves from the object of their hatred. Yet because that hatred is in the forefront of their mind, they will spend a great deal of time in the presence of that which they hate! Conversely, a person who loves others will focus on that love; their actions and emotions are also driven by that love. They will structure life and activity around that love. They will experience joy, peace, and compassion, and will genuinely enjoy the presence of the one they love.
Hatred often doesn’t really affect the one you’re hating, except to hate you in return. So many people are caught up in hating their parents, or the driver who caused a car wreck, or the thief who stole from you… and that person doesn’t even know or care that you hate them, or they hate you just as much as you hate them and it becomes a cycle that simply begets more hate. Things reproduce after their kind. Like begets like. Hatred produces more hatred… love produces more love. When we hate, nothing changes. All that authority and energy is wasted. The only thing that stops the cycle is the choice to love.
Love always affects the person who is loved. A person who is loved is empowered to step out in faith and assurance, rather than in fear. They are empowered to love you back, to love themselves, to love others, to love the Lord. When we choose to love, rather than hate, everything changes. All that authority and energy is properly utilized.
Hate can also be transferred to others. It spreads from person to person. One might automatically think of the KKK or Nazi Germany, but how about this – the 20th/21st Century Church has developed a hatred of this world and is eagerly anticipating the imminent escape of all believers and destruction of the planet and all that’s in it. That misplaced hatred has resulted in misplaced authority; it controls the church and keeps us focused on the wrong thing entirely, and keeps us from our destiny.
Love can likewise be transferred to others. It spreads from person to person. A person who is loved will, in turn, love others… who will love others… love is contagious authority. People who receive love desire to love in return.
Love trumps hate’s authority, stopping it in its tracks. This is why Jesus said we should love our enemies!
Why can’t we just hate them? After all, they’re out to get us. They deserve to be hated! Here’s why: He didn’t give us what we deserved; likewise, we cannot give others what we feel they deserve. Love carries the power to heal. Hate carries the power to harm. Love transforms, hate corrupts. Only love brings the radical reformation of the Kingdom.
We generally think of “hate” in a negative sense and “love” in a positive sense, but that is not always true. Hating something is not always a bad thing; if we hate sin, for example, we will go to great lengths to avoid it, speak badly of it to others, and even run away from it. Loving sin gets you into all sorts of trouble. But loving sinners brings the power of the Kingdom of God upon them… love empowers them to leave sin and be transformed in Christ!
Love and hate are both powerful because as a man thinks in his heart, so he is. We become like the object of our focus. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. We can’t help but tell everyone when we’re in love, or when we’re in hate. Life and death are in the power of the tongue. We have the power to speak life in love to someone… or death in hate over them.
Which authority will you choose to use today?