The Sixth Commandment: You Shall Not Hate
As we get practical in our application of the commandments, we must always keep in mind the preface, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:2). These commands were given to a people who had been set free from their bondage in Egypt. Since entering the wilderness God had already shown himself to be faithful to preserve their lives in the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14), his provision of drinkable water (Exodus 15:22-25; 17:1-7) and bread from heaven (Exodus 16), as well as their defeat of Amalek (Exodus 17:8-16).
This theme of redemption, ransom, and freedom is applied throughout the rest of Scripture in spiritual terms. Those who were once in bondage to sin have been redeemed by God. Through the substitutionary death of the Son of God, believers have been rescued from slavery to their corrupt natures, and they have been justified by faith alone in Christ alone.
Last week I introduced the biblical principle: No human may take the life of another human whether physically or psychologically. The present polarization in the world represents our disregard for this fundamental moral principle. The political and social hatred that we see in the nation has entered the Church.
We considered several examples of the physical application of the law including abortion, suicide, and negligence. We also pointed to some important exceptions to the commandment such as capital punishment, just wars, and self-defense. Scripture is clear on these matters, but unfortunately the Church has not always stood on the sure foundation.
This morning I want to elaborate upon the psychological aspects of the commandment. What are those wicked thoughts that violate this commandment? What can we do to exchange those thoughts with love for our neighbors, including our enemies? It is not surprising that the way people describe feelings of bitterness and hatred is oftentimes couched in language of bondage. There is a sense of helplessness to set aside their feelings.
Read Exodus 20:13
You Shall Not Hate Your Neighbor
The answer to the Westminster Larger Catechism Question 136, after stating the physical examples and exceptions that we looked at last week, goes on to provide a list of mental attitudes toward others that leads to murder. These are not steps of thought that the authors devised on their own, but Scriptural proof texts are attached to each one.
The first recorded murder in Scripture reveals Cain’s envy of the way God received the sacrifice of his brother Able. This envy gave way to sinful anger that had likely festered in Cain’s heart for awhile. Eventually, his anger became deep rooted hatred that led him to rise up against Able and kill him. We could point to several more examples of this sequence of murder in the Old Testament (Joseph’s brothers, Saul).
Jesus recognized this mental progression and equated each attitude with the final act (Matthew 5:21-26). That is not to say that Jesus elevated the command, but that He rightly interpreted it. The murder had already begun in Cain’s heart when he was filled with envy for his brother (James 4:2). Any manner of excessive passions might have developed from there, but they all took him further down the road to murder.
Hatred for our covenant brothers was forbidden under both the Old and New Testaments (Leviticus 19:17; 1 John 3:15). This was something to be avoided by patient reasoning with those we find ourselves in disagreement. When we feel like someone has slighted us, we should not contemplate how we might get revenge (Romans 12:19), but we should show them kindness. We know that God will bring true justice in his final judgment, so we do not have to ensure absolutely fair treatment in this life. In other words, we can suffer wrong and not retaliate.
Notice though, while hatred is not an option, disagreements are inevitable. This is not requiring that all Christians get along at all times about every matter. Unfortunately, too many believers want to maintain peace at all cost, including the responsibility we have to speak the truth, rebuke, and correct one another (1 Timothy 5:20; Titus 2:15). Of course, we must learn to do this with grace and compassion, but too often it is avoided altogether.
The WLC goes back even further than our envy and anger. Those emotions may develop as a means of managing our anxiety about tomorrow (Matthew 6:31, 34). They may also result because we have developed an unhealthy attachment to meat, drink, labor, and recreations (Luke 21:34; Romans 13:13; Ecclesiastes 12:12; 2:22-23; Isaiah 5:12). Food, alcohol, work, and entertainment can become means of finding comfort in this world. Rather than finding our rest in Christ, we search for all manner of coping mechanisms to distract us from the miseries of this life.
In order to address envy, you have to consider the idol that is at the root of your desire. When we are hindered from getting the things we idolize, harmful attitudes begin to form. Many of these unchecked thoughts will come out in words that provoke, oppress, or lead to needless quarreling with others. Eventually, our thoughts and words turn into violent actions (e.g. striking, wounding) that might result in or lead to murder.
You can see how so much of this applies to folks who are out rioting and fighting with the police. I would guess that most of their actions have nothing to do with their perception of systemic racism in America. Not all anger is sin (Ephesians 4:26). There can be a righteous anger that seeks to preserve the glory of God. But righteous anger does not lead to belligerent rage.
Most of the time our anger is not justified. It is shown in our quick temper that reacts without warning when someone crosses us at the wrong time. How often do your children or spouse walk around on egg shells because of your foul mood?
One of the beloved characters of G.K. Chesterton is his detective Father Brown. He was capable of solving crime because he could look within his own heart and discover evil motives and thoughts that would lead to wicked actions. In order to see through the eyes of the murderer he merely had to look within. Although Father Brown is a fictional character, the reasoning that Chesterton provides him with is biblically accurate.
Chesterton (Father Brown) No man’s really any good till he knows how bad he is, or might be; till he’s realized exactly how much right he has to all this snobbery, and sneering, and talking about ‘criminals,’ as if they were apes in a forest ten thousand miles away … till he’s squeezed out of his soul the last drop of the oil of the Pharisees; till his only hope is somehow or other to have captured one criminal, and kept him safe and sane under his own hat.
When we realize how bad we actually could be within our own human nature, we begin to recognize how much we depend upon the grace of God to preserve us. We will not overcome anger simply by developing some countdown method. I’m not saying that is unhelpful, but it will not get to the root of the issue. It might prevent you from making a snap reaction, but it won’t help you develop the patience and maturity needed to prevent you from being setoff in the first place.
On the other hand, once Christ has redeemed us, He sets us free from bondage to the sin of hatred. We can learn to love others, including our enemies.
You Shall Love Your Neighbor
It is the grace of God that compels us to turn our anger into compassion. And that grace is perfectly displayed in the death of Christ.
Romans 5:6-8 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die-but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
We are not the recipients of grace because we are better than our neighbor. God did not die for you because he thought you were a good person. In fact, he died for you because you were the opposite of good. You were depraved.
But if you have been redeemed by grace, then you are also being renewed by that same grace. Those whose thoughts were always corrupt, are now called to think about whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8).
Acknowledging the depravity from which we were saved keeps us humble. When we recognize what we deserve, we are not so quick to retaliate against the mistreatment of others. When we see how much injustice Christ suffered, we can endure our own injustices with dignity and mercy. Moreover, when we recognize how patient God was with us, we learn to be patient with others.
The way we show love in thought, word, and deed promotes life. Instead of seeking ways to eliminate our opponents we will find ways to preserve their lives. That does not mean we must condone their wickedness. We actually care about them enough to correct their waywardness. We place ourselves in harms way in order to defend those who suffer violence. We learn to subdue our excessive emotions by quieting our hearts before the Lord and resting content with His provision. We are motivated by His Spirit to kindness and compassion to those who are filled with contempt for us. We learn to return good for evil. Read the Westminster Larger Catechism Q.135 for an extensive list of examples.
The Lord’s parable of the Good Samaritan provides an excellent example of one who showed love for a person who likely despised him. Our culture has expectations for the same contempt. Black Americans are expected to despise the police. One story that flips the script is making the rounds on social media.
Andrew Collins had a reputation of arresting criminals for drug crimes. But, on several occasions, he secured his arrests by falsifying information. One of these false reports resulted in a ten-year prison sentence for Jameel McGhee. When Collins was caught, a lot of those sentences were overturned. After spending three years in prison, McGhee was free. After Collins spent eighteen months in prison he was released. Both had been saved while in prison, and the Lord brought them together to work at the same restaurant. McGhee forgave Collins and the two have developed a sincere friendship.
Think about those individuals in your own life who you are quick to despise. Maybe they are relatives with a different worldview than your own. Maybe they are enemies at work who seem to be sabotaging your success. Maybe they are politicians who are enemies of the church. Maybe they are false teachers within the church promoting a false gospel. All of these are examples of neighbors whom God calls us to love. We are called to show love even to those who are enemies of the gospel.
Instead of hating those who hate us, we are expected to show them love. We read what Jesus said earlier in the service:
Matthew 5:46-47 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
Our love is broader than the love of the world, because our hearts have been transformed by the grace of a Savior who laid down his life for His enemies. God turns our enemies into neighbors and, by His Spirit, He enables us to love them like we love ourselves. You will never experience any genuine or lasting transformation apart from Christ! So let us follow His example.
And now may your experience be like the psalmist who said, “Surely God is my help, the Lord is the One who sustains me”; May your confidence be as the apostle who said, “The One who calls you is faithful, He will do it”. Psalm 54:4; 1 Thes. 5:24