A while back I heard about a former police officer that was on a special task force charged with hunting down big time drug dealers in his city. Most of his days were filled with the kinds of things that you and I would think were too unrealistic if we saw them in a movie. Car chases, shoot-outs and the like.
This guy is now a former police officer because of how he began to respond to those car chases and shoot-outs. He said that he got a high from charging into a room with his gun drawn. He found himself beginning to look forward to roughing up some guy, whether that guy needed it or not. The fact that a law was being broken or that lives were being destroyed became secondary to the adrenalin rush he got from using his badge and gun.
I’ve never had to pull a gun on someone and car chases aren’t a regular part of my day but I have a lot in common with that former police officer. We both tend to get our love and hate mixed up.
A few days ago I was talking to someone who I knew believed differently than me. Our differences were many and significant. As we began our conversation, I felt like I was about to get into a fight. My palms were sweating and my heart was racing as I thought out my arguments and defenses to his arguments. I was at war with a person who was deceived by a false gospel and I was determined to win.
But, much like the former cop, I was tempted to love the challenge of a confrontation more than the man I was confronting. Instead of remembering that the man standing ten inches away from me was on his way to hell, I wanted to see him merely as an opponent that I had to defeat. It was like I was preparing to be on one of those annoying TV political talk shows where everybody yells at everybody else and nothing ever gets accomplished.
The Holy Spirit reminded me that it does not matter how good my arguments are, how passionately I present them, what my favorite evangelistic technique is or how much I know about the Bible if I am not loving the man standing in front of me. Paul compares this to noisy gongs and clanging cymbals (1 Corinthians 13:1).
Genuine love does not allow us to look past the sins of others (John 4) nor does it permit us to hate those whose sins we find repulsive as we claim to love the One in whose image they were created (1 John 4).
When I finished telling this person about Jesus, I got to pray with him. It wasn’t one of those repeat after me prayers. As far as I know this man is still lost. Instead I prayed for Jesus to remove Satan’s blinders from this man’s eyes so that he could see the gospel more clearly (2 Corinthians 4:4).
As I prayed that prayer, there was hatred in my heart. I hated the fact that the enemy was blinding this man, preventing him to see his need for a Savior.
But there was also love in my heart. The love was for the man who was different than me in almost every respect including where he was set to spend eternity.
I am a work in progress. I am so prone to hate what I’m supposed to be loving and I’m too often apathetic about what I should hate. But God is not done with me.
While that work is in progress I will pray.
I’ll pray for Jesus to help me to love what he loves and to hate what he hates.
And I’ll also pray for that man that I was talking to the other day. I’ll pray that the nail-scarred hand of Jesus will peel away Satan’s blinders and forever keep him in the loving grip of the the One who loves him most (John 10:28-29).