Hard Questions About the Bible

Archive for April, 2012

Are Christians ‘Haters’?

Does the Bible teach Christians to hate others, especially those who are not Christians?

In the Old Testament, it does seem that God instructed the Israelites to hate their enemies.  Deuteronomy 12: 29-31 (edited) says:

The Lord your God will cut off before you the nations you are about to invade and dispossess. But when you have driven them out and settled in their land, and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods.  You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.

In the Old Testament, God’s purpose was to keep the Israelites from the influence of pagan gods, so he had them destroy their enemies.  In the New Testament, the situation was different.

When Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected, he took care of all the sins of the people who accepted his sacrifice.  The Israelites/Jews had to continually offer sacrifices in the temple to atone for their sins.  But now, once a person accepted Jesus, all sins were forgiven.  This meant that people no longer had to destroy the pagans and offer sacrifices, they just had to follow Jesus.

Once people accepted Jesus, the focus of the teaching turned to having relationship with God, loving others (even enemies), and spreading the word of salvation.

Salvation is meant to be a message of God’s love, so in spreading the message, Christians should communicate it with love, not hate.

Next: Why Are Christians So Judgmental?

The Most Radical Teaching of Jesus

Jesus taught many ideas that were considered radical by the Jewish establishment of his day, teaching that he was the Son of God, and he taught many new and radical ideas concerning the Jewish Law.

There is one idea that is just as radical today as in Jesus’ day, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’.  Think about it for a moment.

In Matthew 22:34-39, a Pharisee and expert in the law tested Jesus, asking “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  And the second is like it, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’.”

In Luke 10:25-37, the Pharisee asked “Who is my neighbor?”  Jesus went on to tell the story of the Good Samaritan, in which a Jew is attacked by robbers and left for dead, and a priest and a Levite (the Jewish priestly class) both fail to stop and help.  Finally, a Samaritan (enemy of the Jews) was the one to stop and help.  Jesus was making the point that even enemies are our ‘neighbors’.

You might love your friends, but could you really say that you love them as much as you love yourself?

Loving an acquaintance as much as you love yourself?  You would probably say “that’s hard”.

Loving your enemies as much as you love yourself?   Are you kidding?

Jesus’ teaching of ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ is a completely radical, counter-culture and revolutionary concept in today’s world, especially if your ‘neighbor’ means enemies, and even if it meant friends or acquaintances.

Why is it so counter-culture?  Because it is so counter to the messages that the culture, especially American culture, gives out.  Why is it so radical?  Because it is so far from ‘normal’ human ways of thinking.  Why is it so revolutionary?  Just imagine how it would effect social change if even a fraction of the people really and truly practiced it.

Why would God make ‘Love God’ and ‘Love your neighbor’ the two most important commandments?  Besides wanting relationship with his children, he wants his children to get along.  That makes sense, doesn’t it?

Next:  Are Christians ‘Haters’?