You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:37–40)
This “law of love” was considered by Jesus to be the first and second greatest commandments. As followers of Christ, we should be characterized by a love for God and a love for others. So why are Christians and Christian ministries increasingly getting slapped with labels of hate and intolerance?
Christian “Hate Groups”?
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which claims to “monitor hate groups and other extremists throughout the United States and expose their activities to the public, the media and law enforcement,” hosts a “hate map” on their site. This map contains information about 917 “hate groups” across the United States.
Some of these “hate groups” are well-known for their hateful rhetoric, such as KKK chapters or neo-Nazi groups, but others are Christian or nonprofit groups. According to Liberty Counsel, a pro bono religious freedom group that is itself suing SPLC over their hate label designation, 46 Christian or nonprofit groups have been categorized as “hate groups” by SPLC. These include some names you might recognize, such as D. James Kennedy Ministries (who is also suing SPLC over the label), Alliance Defending Freedom, the American Family Association, the Family Research Council, and others.
D. James Kennedy Ministries, a Florida-based Christian ministry founded by the late Presbyterian minister D. James Kennedy, is suing because the “hate group” label has affected their status with GuideStar USA Inc., a group that rates nonprofits, which in turn has affected their donation status with Amazon.com.1
These groups were slapped with this label because each takes a biblical position on marriage.
So why the “hate group” designations? These groups were slapped with this label because each takes a biblical position on marriage. Simply holding to biblical and historically Christian views, taken directly from the Bible, is enough to be called a “hate group,” according to SPLC standards. These groups don’t call for members to express hatred or commit violent acts; they simply hold to a set of beliefs that Christians (and most others in the Western world, I might add) have held to for centuries.
Are Christians Intolerant and Hateful?
Does upholding biblical marriage and sexuality, and standing opposed to sinful behaviors such as gay “marriage” and transgenderism, automatically make you hateful and intolerant? Can Christians follow Christ’s command to love God and others and still be opposed to these things?
Well, the Bible tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8) and, likewise, tells us that “if a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination” (Leviticus 20:13) and “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Romans 1:26–27). If God—the very one who defines love because he is love—can be loving yet call homosexual behavior a sin, then so can his followers.
There’s nothing hateful about pointing out sin. It’s actually the most loving thing a person can do! Those who continue to live in sin—any sin—refusing to repent and seek the Lord’s mercy, are headed for a Christless eternity in hell. We don’t want anyone to experience God’s wrath, but want all to put their faith in Christ, the one who took God’s wrath for us.
It would be hateful for us not to teach what the Bible says. Allowing others to wallow in sin, when we know the truth of their standing before God, without warning them of the judgment to come would be the worst thing a person could do. To quote atheist Penn Jillette, “If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell. . . . How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”
Throughout Scripture, we see God as a God of love and mercy. But he’s likewise a God of holiness and justice. He loves all people, but he also calls all to repent of their sin. And how can his followers do any less?
It’s a Spiritual Issue
The hatred the world shows for Christian beliefs and values shouldn’t surprise any follower of Christ. Consider what Scripture says:
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me [Jesus] before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. . . . But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ (John 15:18–20, 25)
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (John 3:19–20)
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:12).
People hate Christians and what we teach because it’s a spiritual issue (Ephesians 6:12). Unbelievers do not want their sin exposed by the light of Christ and his Word. They’d rather live in the darkness, where their sin is praised and considered acceptable, than accept the truth that they’re sinners in need of a Savior. The message of the gospel is the “good news” (indeed, that’s what gospel means!) for everyone, but it starts with the bad news—that we’re all sinners and deserve the wrath of God—and that’s a message people do not want to hear.
So what can Christians do in the face of misguided intolerance and hate from the world? We can do as the Scriptures command us:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19–20)
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
Contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3)
But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)