Why are we as Christians more known for what we are against rather what we are for? It may sound the same on the surface, because if you stand for something, then by definition, you are against something else, but I think there is a big difference.
We are known in our culture for what we are against, and by extension, what we say that God is against: we are the ones who are against drinking…or dancing…or abortion…or same-sex marriage…or gays…or whatever. You may have seen signs at various protests, on the news, or in a quick Google search: “God hates fags,” “God hates America,” or “You’re going to hell.” The perception in our culture is that Christians hate those whose morals differ from ours and that we are against them.
We say that we follow Jesus, but are we following Him when we exhibit hateful attitudes towards people? Does God ever say that He hates people? He hates the worship of false gods (Deut 16:21-22; 12:31). He hates a variety of behaviors: “haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who stirs up conflict in the community” (Prov 6:18-19). I do not see any passage that says God hates gays, or divorced people, or drunks, or anyone struggling with any number of sins and/or demons.
God loves all people and wants all of us “to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). He does want us to rid ourselves of a variety of evil behaviors (1 Pet 2:1; Col 3:8). These behaviors include “bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Eph 4:32). Some of these attitudes that we are to be rid of are some of the very things we are guilty of when we are exhibiting hateful attitudes towards others. In that same passage, we are also called to “be kind and compassionate” (Eph 4:32).
Do we have compassion for people like Jesus? He was often filled with compassion when He saw people with broken lives (Mark 6:34). Did He ever reach anyone by exhibiting a hateful attitude, by ostracizing them or berating them? Does He do reach us this way? Does He kick us aside when our behavior does not meet His expectations? Scripture says that “God’s kindness is intended to lead [us] to repentance” (Rom 2:4). We are happy to accept this kindness, but do we extend this kindness and grace to others? Is the phrase “hate the sin but love the sinner” something we live out or just something say?
Maybe the difference in how God treats sinners and how we treat them (and don’t forget that we are them!), is that God wants people who are caught in sin to come to Him, to repent, to become part of His family. Our concerns seem to gravitate more toward punishment and hoping “these people” get what they deserve. The fact is that we all deserve punishment and are in desperate need of grace. It seems that we just don’t seem to want certain people to experience grace. We can be for sinners, but against sin because of what it does to all of us.
I hope that someday Christians will be known for what we are for rather than what we are against, and that we will be seen as people who show love and compassion, who extend God’s kindness and patience to others rather than hatred and vengeance. Of course, this is not an easy path, but then Jesus never said following Him would be easy.