The Reason Behind the Reason for the Season
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” – 1 John 4:7–11 (ESV)
Recently I was in a conversation with another Christ-follower who made a statement that troubled my spirit. He was sharing with my daughter and me that one of the main ways he knows he is growing in his walk with God is by seeing just how much more he hates evil. He repeated the phrase emphatically, punctuating his growing hatred of evil, and that this hate is what shows him he is growing in his relationship with God.
To be fair, this man is a mature believer, and although he’s not connected to SBC and I may not get a chance to follow up, I’m confident if I had inquired further, he would have elaborated on many other evidences of Christian growth. But, in that moment, I didn’t have a lot to say in response. Yes, it is true that as we grow closer to Christ and fall more in love with Him and His righteousness, our disdain towards evil and all the forces that oppose God and His Kingdom should be in a natural inverse relationship—the more we love Christ, the more repugnant and distasteful sin and evil should become to us.
However, what bothered me was the exclusive focus and use of the word “hate” as the main metric for evaluating our spiritual growth. When I think of our Savior, Jesus, what comes to mind is His LOVE for people, not His HATE for evil. Even as I do a quick cursory search of the New Testament, the word “hate” and its derivatives are used a total of 41 times, while all forms of the word “love” are mentioned 287 times. That’s exactly seven times more mentions of “love” than “hate”!
Additionally, Christians are told that one of the main ways people will know we are Christ’s disciples is by the way we love. In the Gospel of John, Jesus states, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 ESV).
The world should be looking in at the way the Church treats her own people and marvel at the love. They should witness a people who sacrificially care for and serve those who are hurting and needy. The Church should be graciously welcoming all, no matter where a person resides on the economic or social spectrum. As stated in 1 John at the beginning of this blog, “God IS love” and if we are looking for a metric by which to gauge our spiritual growth, if we are indeed becoming more like God, then growing in LOVE should be one of our primary goals.
The world should be looking in at the way the Church treats her own people and marvel at the love.
As we walk through this Christmas season, let us remember that LOVE was the primary motivation behind God sending us His Son. Even the beloved verse that many Christian children are encouraged to commit to memory, John 3:16, reminds us, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” The “reason for the season” of Christmas is Jesus Christ. But, remember the reason BEHIND Jesus coming was God’s love for the world, not His hatred of evil. Our desire should be to grow in love and in our ability to share God’s love with others. Love is how we ought to measure our spiritual growth.
As you grow older in Christ, do you see God’s love and grace growing in your life? Are you aging like a fine wine that grows in complexity and goodness over time? Are younger generations of Christians drawn to you because of your kindness, warmth and love? Or, are you aging like a glass of milk? Clumpy, rank and pushing people away. Do younger generations mainly know that you disapprove of the way they dress, their music, or even their politics? If your focus of spiritual growth is driven by a hatred of evil, it is only a matter of time before things that are merely your preference will receive that same level of anger as things that are actually evil. Same goes for those of you who are young—seek to grow in grace, love and understanding toward those who came before you. The Church’s LOVE for one another will show the world we follow Jesus.
This Christmas, even this New Year, seek that the Lord would help you grow in His Love—that you would understand just how loved and accepted you are by God and, in turn, would overflow His love onto all those around you.