“I hate you!”
There are fewer words more painful than these three. A general rule we’re taught early on is “never say ‘hate’”. After all, hate’s not a good thing right? Hateful people are not the ones you want to spend Thanksgiving with in a few weeks—some of you may have no choice because they’re your family but that’s a different post for a different day. 🙂
But we find in the Bible there are some things the Lord hates. And in the context of these things, it’s difficult to not apply these feelings from the Lord to the individual people. What?!?! What did I just write?! “Heresy!” you exclaim.
But wait! Before you hang me or burn me at the stake, let’s go to Scripture and see what the Lord is telling us in Proverbs 6:16-19.
There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: 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.
When we read across Proverbs, we find numerical sayings of “x, x+1” and it seems so strange to us. Indeed, as Westerners, it is strange, but like everything in Scripture, there are reasons for it. Unfortunately, most of the meaning of this one is lost to antiquity. In the time of the writing of Proverbs, this type of expression was common—in all wisdom literature both inside and outside of the Bible. One thing commentators and scholars are fairly certain of is this: the final item listed (the “+1”) functions as the apex of the expression.
What are the things the Lord hates? Six things are listed that roll up into one grand expression: “a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” This is the pinnacle of what the Lords hates: divisiveness.
Why does the Lord hate divisiveness? I mean, think about it: of all the evil in the world, why does the Lord hate “a person who stirs up conflict in the community”?
Because “every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand” (Matthew 12:25).
When the Lord is speaking of “the community” in Proverbs 16:19, He’s not merely speaking of townships. Actually, He’s not really talking about municipalities at all. He’s talking about the community of the faithful. In the Old Testament, He was specifically talking about Israel, which existed in the unique position of being both a nation and the community of faith. After Jesus came along, this concept of the community is the church.
You seeing it?
When those insisting on stirring up conflict divide the church, the mission of why we’re here is crippled. In time, the mission is destroyed. When that happens, churches more resemble Rube Goldberg machines than the entity Jesus said He would build.
“A perverse person stirs up conflict,” Proverbs 16:28 reminds us, “and a gossip separates close friends.” There are some things we are to hate. There are some attitudes we must allow the Holy Spirit to purge from us.
The most serious is divisiveness because of its insidious power to spread like a cancer through our communities of faith and damage the witness of the life-changing power of the Gospel to the world.
Since we’re told the Lord hates some things, we should too. But let’s hate the right things.