I wonder, how much should a Christian hate? I take my cue from the den of robbers where Jesus overturned tables and denounced peddlers and profiteers of religion. There are also other occasions where Jesus reprimanded the Scribes and Pharisees of his day, reserving the worst names for them like vipers, serpents, wolves in sheep clothing and whitewashed tombs.
Paul in Romans 12:9 even exhorted us to hate what is evil and to cling on to what is good for our love has to be genuine. We must not claim that we love and then go around turning a blind eye to injustice, corruption and abuses. Worse still, to project a form of love in public and then exact unmitigated hate in private especially with those closest to us bearing the full brunt of our raging campaign.
So, hate is not something to be avoided. We as Christian are in fact called to stand up for what is right and make a difference by stepping up to the plate. Having moral courage therefore requires us to call a spade a spade and a wrong a wrong. Most times, we have to tell it as it is and to be firm (even tenacious) about it. Such firmness will inevitably come with some force of anger, a touch of hate. If Jesus is a model for us to follow, we can rest assured that hating what is evil or wrong is not just appropriate but necessary even.
But this is the tricky bit. At the risk of stating the obvious, we are not Jesus - not even by a long shot. We are all flawed. We fall as often as we soar. However, I am not advocating that we stop hating evil (or wrong) or suspend all judgments. That would in my view be a dereliction of our obligation as a Christian.
I am on the contrary suggesting that every subject of our ire - be it a wayward preacher, a corrupt politician or a hypocritical believer - be balanced with an equally intensive, if not more exacting, exercise of self-examination. The log in our eye will always be a reminder of how vulnerable we can be. The heart is above all deceitful and we are called to guard it at all times - especially our own.
So, this brings me to the many posts I have written about megachurch pastors, namely Kong Hee and Joseph Prince – to name a few. Needless to say, I have admittedly not written nice things about them - to put it mildly.
I have called Kong Hee a coward for not standing up to what is right, for not being transparent with his members, and for dragging the church through a costly, exhausting and faith-sapping legal saga. And I don't think I need to mention much about his recently ordained wife which obviously smacks of blatant spousal bias and conflict of interests - putting aside china wine of course.
I have also questioned Joseph Prince's interpretation of scriptures. I feel that his radical grace message undermines God's holy Law while it distorts God's freely-given Grace. Burying the former (law) to raise the latter (grace) only offer one side of the Gospel. I also find his doctrine of the one-time-altar-call repentance another distortion, while his emphasis on the self-appropriation of righteousness risks believers taking Grace for granted. History has shown us quite conclusively that we still continue to sin against a loving Savior after the altar call, but it is what comes after that that true transformation begins, that is, repentance.
Last but not least, I feel that the megachurch preachers like Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland turn religion into a self-profiting enterprise preying on the innermost desire of believers for the attention and affection of omnipotence.
But in writing about them the way I did, I kept to dealing with the issue as best as I know how, and not the person. As fallible as they are, I am equally fallible too. We are all flawed and I feel deeply that what joins us all together is never how morally superior we are. If anything, moral superiority is divisive, exclusive and self-glorifying. Self-appropriation of righteousness can equally be misappropriated to conveniently cover a multitude of sins.
Our common ground however is how flawed we are, and how much we need a savior - not how much we can live our life without one. And what holds us together is holy grief/sorrow, enduring repentance. Even if the Holy Spirit does not convict us of sins (so say JP as his bottom-line declaration), we could still grieve Him by our conduct, thoughts and speech. And if we respond in remorse and repentance to it by changing our mind and heart accordingly ("metanoia"), that is conviction enough for me (by the Holy Spirit).
So, I do have issues with Kong Hee, Joseph Prince and the other megachurch preachers, and at times, I make personal judgments about their leadership and teachings.
But when I do so, I am aware that the log in my own eyes constrains me. It keeps me mindful of my own failings as a husband, son, friend and believer. I need to check myself too. I need a savior as much as they need theirs. I am accountable to God as they are accountable to Him.
And as I return to the question I first posed in this post - "how much should a Christian hate?" - I am reminded again of Paul's words, "to hate what is evil and to cling on to what is good."
Now, I prefer to replace the word "evil" here with "wrong", and apply the same to the tumultuous leadership of Kong Hee and some of the controversial teachings of Joseph Prince and the other megachurch prosperity preachers.
This is of course just my view and I am entitled to them just as many who disagree with me are entitled to theirs. Each of us has our own shored-up reasons for our particular stand or position. And the debate is endless on this.
My point here as I end is this, where should we then draw the line when it comes to hating what is wrong? I think the answer is found in the Pauline admonishment. At all times, our hate should not blind us to what is good. And if your read Romans 12:9, it culminates at verse 21 with this, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” If there is any doubt as to where to draw the line, that last verse should clear all doubts. Good always prevail, that is, it prevails over hate (Romans also talks about love, and I will leave that part to the end of this post).
At my brother-in-law's wake recently, I have spoken to members from City Harvest Church and New Creation Church and I realized that what is good about the churches are the members themselves. Most of them at least - the discerning and sincere members.
They know what they are looking for. They know why they come to church. They know how to pursue the Lover of their souls. They do not seek after men. They seek after God. They do not seek the gift, but the Giver. In fact, I have many friends who are equally discerning in these megachurches.
No doubt they are disappointed with some aspects of the leadership, but the source of their personal redemption and faith is not in the controversial programs and the flamboyant leaders, but it is in the life-transforming encounters with their Savior.
After talking to them, I feel that my hate for what is wrong should never blind me to the good that I cling on to. No church is perfect. No leadership flawless. And no programs foolproof. Leaders wear their pants in the same way that lay members wear them - one leg at a time.
By the fruits, you shall know them and mind you, numbers do not justify the leadership. Ten of thousands of people can be wrong (look at the current democracy in America). Just as the cult of personality is inevitable, we can trust that the discernment of mature church members will keep their eyes focused on their Savior.
By saying "by the fruits", I am talking about each individual life, and you can't just conveniently sweep or lump them all into one category and put a label on them under the category of "blind followers", "cliff-diving lemmings" or "mass delusionals".
You have to talk to them. Listen to their heart's cry. Draw lessons from their struggles. Respect their reasons even if they differ from yours. Love them as Jesus loves them. Allow yourself to be encouraged and ministered to by the good in their faith and belief. And if there is a common thread that runs through our declaration of faith, it has to be the life of Jesus.
Sure, Jesus had overturned tables and stopped the people from turning His house of prayers into a den of thieves, but at the same time, He went all the way to Calvary and died for the same people who once formed the subject of his ire.
He took upon Himself their condemnation and turned evil or wrong into something redeemable, hopeful, empowering and enduringly good.
So, does this mean that I should stop writing about what I think is wrong about the leadership in the megachurches? No, of course not.
But my takeaway from all this is that I should continue to speak my mind as I have always done so in the past. Yet in doing so, I should also be mindful that love always makes the enduring difference.
It was love that compelled Jesus, not hate. It was love that completed the mission at Calvary, not hate. And it was love that Jesus said "forgive them for they know not what they do", not hate.
Love therefore goes the distance, completes the race and shows us the way. Yes, I should hate what is wrong. But such hate should never blind me to what is good, that is, what is redeemable and what is lovely in the eyes of my Savior. My heart should always be broken by the things that break the heart of God.
In the end, I should always strive to see everyone through the eyes of my Savior at an elevated point of Calvary, and not see them through my own eyes at the foot of the Cross where the only preoccupation is to cast lot over Jesus' seamless, blood-drenched robe. Cheerz.