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Karen Beilharz // Wednesday, 01 Feb 2006 // Filed in Notices

Learning to Hate

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves.

(Romans 12:9-10, NIV)

We are blessed in Australia with some fantastic beaches. When I was growing up, we lived near the coast and a large part of my life was spent at the beach. I remember one day, after we'd been swimming for a while, my brother and I decided to climb one of the cliffs dividing the sand dunes at the back of the beach.

We'd been climbing for a while, clambering up the side, and had reached the edge of the cliff. We were fairly high up and the view was fantastic, as was the adrenaline rush of being so close to the edge. As we turned to go, we realised we were in a pretty dangerous position. In order to get to the very edge of the cliff, we had climbed down a little onto a small flat section and this meant we had to climb back upwards before we could get off the cliff.

The surface we had to climb had been affected by the salt and was so brittle, it came away in our hands. The wind had smoothed the rock and there were no bushes or hand-holds we could use. Feeling myself slipping, I called out to my brother for help but he too was barely holding on and could only turn around, his face pressed against the cliff surface while he clung on for dear life, to give me possible instructions on how to pick my way up the cliff.

An older couple walking on the sand down below saw us and asked if we needed help. For some reason, we told them we were fine and continued to inch ourselves upwards. I remember my brother holding onto the cliff and extending his hand out while I hooked two fingers into his and moved up beside him. What seemed like hours passed before we made it to a more secure patch of cliff and climbed out, making the trek back down to the beach.

In a similar way, Romans 12:9 says we are to “cling” to “what is good”. But it also says we are to hate—“hate what is evil”. This is a simple and clear command and yet one that is quite difficult. Too often we are confused about what it is to “hate” and, instead, I find myself focusing on other parts of the Christian life, such as love, encouragement and worship. It's more confusing because the idea of “evil” is not popular to our modern ears and the preaching and rhetoric around the term, “tolerance,” comes at the expense of a discussion on “hate”.

I think the emotion of “hate” is most often related to movements such as the Klu Klux Klan and the rise of the Nazi Regime. Yet to hate is the appropriate response to actions of, say, child molesters—to anything that is evil, including sin. Learning to hate comes through experience. It may seem strange, training the mind towards such a goal, yet, being caught in sin, and giving into temptation and evil, must give rise to this sort of training.

Sin, such as lust and anger, has patterns. In our minds and in our hearts, we play with sin—we mess around with it, we enjoy it and sometimes we love it. This is wrong; we are called to hate it. If we know God, who is perfect and holy and asks us to be too—if we trust in Jesus, who is our sinless saviour—then we must heed the call to “love”, the call to “cling” and the call to “hate”.

Knowing this will help us not to fall into unhelpful ways of thinking and behaving, for example,

  • thinking that the sin and evil I experience are too big and it's too hard for me to fight;
  • thinking that the freedom I have through forgiveness in Christ means that, when it comes to sin, I don't have to think or do anything about it;
  • thinking, “I know God will forgive me, so I'll do it and then ask for forgiveness afterwards”;
  • asking forgiveness of God, even when I'm in the middle of sinning;
  • thinking, “Hate is such a negative emotion I'd rather not have anything to do with it”;
  • thinking, “Sin and temptation are such personal things, I'd rather not know or be involved in any one else's struggles”.

Returning to my opening story, I'd like to make a couple of points. Firstly, find that which is good—Jesus, God's word, his people—and cling to them.

Secondly, find a brother or sister—a helping hand close by who can help pull you up to safety—to stronger ground—even if it's only with two fingers.

Thirdly, ask for, or accept, help when it is offered. Be aware; don't miss the way out that is given to you (1 Cor 10:13).

Fourthly, don't hold onto this world; it is crumbling and fading away.

Remember,

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves.

Matt Davies // Friday, 20 Jan 2006 // Filed in Bible Commentary

“Stop Laughing I’m Dying”

I love to laugh. I love to see others laughing. The people I’m closest to are the ones that make me laugh. I have a respect for those who can make me laugh. The storytellers—those who see the world through the eyes of the absurd, the whimsical and their own twisted prism of understanding—are often some of the smartest people I know.

My favourite TV shows at the moment are the British comedy series Black Books, The Office and Arrested Development from the US. I find myself saying, “I love these shows. I love the characters,” by which I mean I love the way they make me feel—make me think—make me laugh.

I've been lending the DVDs to my Christian friends, telling them that they need to experience what I have (though they should be careful with some of the sexual references, swear words, and the glorification of drunkeness and immorality). My evanglestic zeal is acceptable I think. To share laughter and joy is a way of easing pain. Providing an escape is a noble purpose in this world with all its hurt and brokeness.

But I have recently been struck by something I read in Ecclesiastes:

It is better to go to the house of mourning

  than to go to the house of feasting,

for this is the end of all mankind,

  and the living will lay it to heart.

Sorrow is better than laughter,

  for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.

(Ecclesiastes 7:2-3)

The idea that “sorrow is better than laughter” really grinds against me and what I believe. Because this is one line from a book of the Old Testament, I'm hoping to ignore it. Ecclesiates says some strange things, anyway.

I remember one day I was struggling with my faith. I looked around, unhappy with the world as I saw it and with who I had become. I was searching for meaning and I was desperate for hope, and I prayed to the Lord and opened up to the middle of the Bible to Ecclesiastes 1:2 for some reassurance from his word. It said:

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,

  vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

“Man,” I thought, “that's rough!” But I had to admit that God has a sense of humour; reading that made me laugh and then I began to feel better. I started to think seriously about how to read the Bible and I sat down and read the rest of the book of Ecclesiastes.

In the first few chapters the Teacher seeks and searches out wisdom. Finding it meaningless, he turns his mind to pleasure, making the statement that “[Laughter] is mad” (2:2). He then turns his journey to foolishness,

I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life.

(Ecclesiastes 2:3)

These odd-sounding statements express for me clearly a certain time in my life. During my early 20s, I had seen the world as absurd and his the creatures on this planet as the same. I had sought to investigate what was worthwhile by drinking heaps, and enjoying laughter and foolish behaviour. And at Uni there were plenty of people willing to do likewise.

I realised, though, that the true absurdity is attempting to live without God—even denying his existence. I needed to see the world as owned by a Creator God. While the world is fallen, broken and perishing, it contains a hope that is held out by a loving God—a redemption offered freely to us through His Son Jesus. The work of God is a powerful, beautiful statement. My reaction, therefore, should be to fear God (5:7). In fact, if we want to understand the world, we need look no farther than the conclusion of Ecclesiastes: “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (12:13).

I think we humans are entertaining ourselves to death. We're laughing—seeking pleasure—chasing after shallow lifestyles of fun and whimsy. But while fun and laughter are gifts to be enjoyed in this world, we need to understand that we will all die and be called to account for our lives. God asks for our lives so that we will seek Him and know Him. We are to give him the whole of our lives for the whole of our whole lives.

Spending time with my friends laughing is wonderful, but we need to spend time together crying also—thinking on death and focusing on God. At the moment I'm spending time thinking of a funny way to end this article and I’ve got a good joke—a joke that made me laugh ... laugh so hard I cried.

Matt Davies // Saturday, 14 Jan 2006 // Filed in Christian Life