A Necessary Hatred

From the sermon, “Hatred Necessary to Love”
by Frederick Denison Maurice, 1805-1872

“Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?” (Psalm 139: 21)

The Psalmist answers his own question: “I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.”

We should most of us reply quite differently.

We should say, “Hate them? We hate nothing. We try to obey Christ's command, ‘love your neighbour as yourself.’”

“There is a way which seems right to people, but the end of it is the way of death.” I believe that this plausible, self-complacent language of ours indicates that we are in exceeding danger of wandering into that dark road if we are not walking in it already. We think that we are far more gentle, humane, charitable than David was. If we have the courage to consider what he meant and what we mean, I fear we shall find that we are as much behind him in these especially Christian graces as in those which we may perhaps allow that he possessed, zeal and earnestness.

You will tell me that David hated actual flesh-and-blood men, Moabites and Hagarenes, Goliaths and Sauls. Well, I do not care to dispute it. He hated whatever rose up against righteousness and truth in the earth, whatever sought to set up a lie. I cannot tell to what degree the particular man or the particular nation was the object of his aversion. To some extent I am sure it was, because I find that to some extent, probably to a much greater extent, it is so with us. But I am sure, just so far as he hated men or nations because they rose up against the God of truth and goodness and just so far he was hating the untruth and unrighteousness of these nations, just so far he was hating the same untruth and unrighteousness in himself. He felt that there were deadly powers which were working deadly mischief in God's world. He who was about his path and his bed, and spying out his ways, showed him what they were. He felt them plaguing his own heart, tormenting him every moment, withdrawing him from trust and obedience, dragging him into a whirlpool of contradictory thoughts, words, acts. In the inmost region of his being, he had to encounter these principalities of spiritual wickedness. In those high places, he had to wrestle with them. There he was trained to hate them, to hate them from a thorough knowledge of their intense essential vileness. This hatred grew just in proportion to the degree in which he believed, trusted, delighted in a being of absolute purity and perfection. The dimmer his vision was of such a being, the more tolerant he was of that which opposed his nation and resisted his will The more sure he was that God is and that he is the Lord of man, and that he seeks to establish righteousness and truth in the earth, the more vehemently and savagely he abhorred whatever he saw which denied God and aimed at keeping the earth an abode of deceit and wrong. When he forgot God's name and disbelieved in his mercy, he could be meek and gentle with the butchers of the world and the chosen race; when his heart was thoroughly possessed with the Divine Spirit, “he hated them right sore, even as though they were his enemies.”

And can it be then, brethren, that the blessing of our Christian profession consists in this, that we have acquired a patience of whatever hates God and rises up against him, which David had not? Assuredly our, Christian profession then does not mean the following the example of our Saviour Christ, and being like him? It is something the most opposite of this. For do you discover in him any sign of this patience, this tolerance? You are told that when he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not. You hear that he bore the contradiction of sinners against himself; you hear that he ate and drank with publicans and sinners, whom the religious men of the day considered it a defilement to approach. But do you not hear of his making a scourge of small thongs and driving out of the Temple those who sold and bought there? Do you not find him denouncing the Scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites and whited sepulchres?

“Do not I hate them that hate you, Father? Am I not grieved with them that rise up against you?” was the language of the Master far more fully than of the servant; it expressed far more thoroughly the spirit of his life.

He was engaged in a conflict to blood against evil, in a death-struggle whether it should put out the light of the world, or whether that light should prevail against it. And since he ascended on high he has been carrying on the same death-struggle in his Church and members, a struggle in which he tells us we must all engage, on one side or the other.

What means then this notion which we seem to have taken up, that we are better than our forefathers because we hate less strenuously? Does it mean that there is nothing left in the world which deserves to be hated? Does it mean that Christianity or refinement or civilisation or science or mechanical achievements or aesthetics or anything else we reverence, has put an end to pride and malice or cruelty? Does it mean that there are no scandals and abominations in the nation? No fierce party-spirit, no lying, in the Church? Does it mean that people are everywhere worshipping the God of truth and love, that they are not worshipping the evil spirit of falsehood and ill-will?

No one believes this; no one doubts the existence of that which ought not to exist, of that which is contrary to the good of humankind and the character of God. We are used to these things. We suppose they cannot be helped. We think God is indifferent to them. That is to say, we have ceased to believe in a God of truth and love; we do not suppose that what is evil is rising up against him.

As for our hating less those who rise up against us or those who dislike our notions, religious, political or philosophical, I cannot see the evidence of it. We cannot, thanks be to God, indulge our desire for the suppression of the opinions that contradict ours as we once did. We are obliged at present to limit ourselves to bitter words, dark insinuations, the destruction of each other's characters, to the undermining of moral freedom in the land. But withdraw for an instant the legal restraints upon our mutual animosities, give any one sect or party the opportunity of indulging to the full its passions against the rest and it would be seen how much excuse we have for boasting of our charity, even of our toleration.

And that bitterness on behalf of our own notions and dogmas, that desire to crush whatever and whoever runs counter to them, can, I believe, only be overcome by a very earnest cultivation of the other temper, of that which we have denounced in David. Determine to hate that which rises up in you against God, that first, that chiefly, and you will hate, along with your indifference, cowardice, meanness, all this conceit of your own poor judgment, this dislike of opposition to it, this unwillingness to have your thoughts probed to the quick. The intense certainty that there is a God of truth and without iniquity, and that he must mean to sweep all falsehood and all injustice from this earth, will make you desire, above all things, that he should search you and try your ways, that he should detect whatever in you is yours and not his and should burn that with unquenchable fire. The acknowledgement of a God who was revealed in Jesus Christ, a God in who is light and no darkness at all, will compel us to desire that no traditions of the past, no conceits of our own minds, may shut him out from us. The acknowledgement of a God who bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things, (who has been long-suffering with all his creatures and long-suffering with us), will make us tremble to deal harshly with the struggles and doubts (how much more with the convictions) of our fellow-beings. Believing that God's Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, is the only guide to truth and that he is seeking to guide us in the right way, how we must fear to check his mighty operations upon our own spirit or upon the spirit of any with whom we are in contact. How we must desire that we may be his instruments, not his foes and, therefore, that we may partake of his own grace and gentleness.

And so with this hatred, deeply and inwardly cherished, will come the true, and not the imaginary charity, the genuine, not the bastard toleration. To detect the right meaning, the sound faith, the divine inspiration which is latent under confused, rough angry words, directed against ourselves, even against principles which are dearer to us than ourselves, will be a duty which we learn at the Cross, a faculty which only Christ can impart to us. We shall exercise it just because we believe the truth to be all-important, falsehood accursed; just because we love the one and hate the other. We shall remember that God honoured Job (who complained bitterly and spoke words like the east wind and was determined that he would know the meaning of the Divine judgments) more than the three friends who pretended to justify him and in fact only showed their want of sympathy with his purposes of mercy and goodness. Whatever is contrary to that mercy and goodness, which are parts of his being, we shall desire to hate more and more, therefore to bear more and more with all that merely crosses our tastes and inclinations and judgments. ts.

These are lessons which I think are not quite out of place at the beginning of a general election. In spite of the mingling and confusion of parties amongst us and the uncertainty about leaders (perhaps about principles), I suspect we shall find excuses enough for denouncing one another, if not for hating one another. To interpose general maxims about goodwill and forbearance at such times is mere idleness; everyone accepts them, no one gives heed to them. I would press another exhortation upon you, I would beseech you to give full scope to your hatred. I am sure you will need it. For you will be tempted to do things that are hateful in the sight of God and that you should do your utmost to make hateful in the sight of men. Those frauds which candidates use to disguise their meaning, to pass themselves off as intending that which they do not intend to obtain suffrages from two opposite quarters, do they not deserve to be hated with a perfect hatred? Is not every slander against any opponent, every encouragement which you give to tongues and pens less scrupulous than your own, part of a hateful system? Is not the trafficking with party-symbols and ambiguous phrases, which may import everything or nothing, hateful? Is not the trafficking with sacred names for low purposes more profane and hateful still? Is not everything which tends to bewilder the consciences, to degrade the moral nature of those whose support you seek, to be hated as an insult to the God of Truth, to the God who seeks truth in his creatures? Do not all these deceitful words and acts go to make up a frightful sum of falsehood, to destroy the land which we pretend that we wish to save? Must not they bring God's curse upon us? Oh, for a more burning rage in us all against that which makes our professions ridiculous, our acts and words destructive of sincerity in ourselves and in all whom they influence! And since we are so unfit to search each other, because we have so many hidden falsehoods of our own, let us rejoice while we tremble that God has promised to search us and try us, and see what wicked way there is in us, and lead us in his true and everlasting way!

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