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Aug 7 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 5, 2012 – Ecclesiastes 3:8

A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:8

INTRO: Doesn’t it feel like poet has saved a surprise for the end of his poem?

Hate and war are subjects that seem inconsistent with an enlightened mind
– it may simply be the differences of time and culture
– in our life with Jesus, it’s hard to find a place for hatred
• don’t we tend to see love as “good” and hate as “bad”?
• “God wants us to love; the devil wants us to hate” — but it’s not that simple
Not only does God want us to hate, but the devil wants us to love

We will have to try to solve this dilemma

Empedocles was a Greek philosopher who lived before Socrates
– his theory was that all matter consisted of four substances, but he added something
• two forces, he named love and strife – these were impersonal forces!
• love unites and creates, strife separates and destroys

Love and hate are definitely two of the most powerful forces in our lives
– think of even one novel or movie where these themes aren’t present
– so the issues at the end of the poem are as big as beginning (birth and death)
• if God had nothing to say about these themes, little else that he said would be relevant
• he wouldn’t have hand on the strongest motivators at work in our everyday lives

So what does God have to say about these “human, all too human” issues?

A time to love and a time to hate

A lesson in biblical psychology: scripture does not dissect the human person
– it doesn’t separate feelings from actions, or from the person who feels and acts
– the experience of love is the same as the expression of love
• they could not imagine people merely sitting on their feelings
• motion is the essence of emotion — we turned emotion into a “state of mind”

Love and hate in scripture are multidimensional – they include
Feelings about someone or something
• but hate does not always entail animosity or hostility – it could be neutral or indifferent
• by comparison with Jacob’s love for Rachel, it seemed like he hated Leah (Ge. 29:31)
Attitudes – color what the eyes see and the ears hear
Behavior – love does good or hate does harm (or simply ignores or neglects)

Whether you loved or hated someone could be seen in way you treated him

Prepare yourself for another shock

If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. (Lk. 14:26)

– how are we suppose to interpret this ultimatum?
– there are three ideas behind it:

  1. Jesus requires total loyalty from his disciples
    –  for Jesus, love and hate are about loyalty
  2. There are attachments that compromise the disciple’s loyalty
    – in the previous parable – people let something come before God
    • some attachments take over control of a person
    • other attachments hold a person back from following Jesus
    • some relationships make claims on a person’s heart and allegiance
  3. Loyalty to God creates situations that demand that disciples make a choice
    –  from Jesus’ point of view, we have to decide between two options

No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth (Lk. 16:13)

If I find something holding me back from Jesus, it’s “a time for hate”
– hate whatever would take Jesus from me
– it’s not a family member we are supposed to hate per se, but that person’s influence over us, the demands they make on us
• nor is it a matter of harboring hateful feelings
• it’s a way of treating our attachments to those people

This hate is not supposed to come easily
– if hate for your family comes easily, it’s the wrong kind of hate — not what Jesus had in mind

Does it make you panic that Jesus demands everything?
– for me it does and it doesn’t
– just this week I’ve come back to the reality of Christianity, that it is nothing less that Jesus – a life given to him and spent in him

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus . . . (Col. 3:17)

– when you see “name” in the New Testament, think person and presence
• everything we do, we can do in the name of Jesus — “I am doing this for Jesus, who is with me here and now”
– it no longer seems impossible to give him everything
• in fact, doing everything in his name produces a deep, inner joy and satisfaction

A time for war and a time for peace

In our world, there are systems, institutions, atrocities, and so on, that every righteous person will naturally resist
– we cannot take the side of good without opposing the side of evil
• however, we do have to be discerning re: what we label good and evil — Christians have done much harm by being indiscriminate with those words

. . . do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wished to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (Jas. 4:4)

– to be at peace on one front means we’ll be at war on another

When we settle into prayer it is “a time for war” against anything that distracts us from God

I have a question for us to think about

What if Jesus offered us a low-cost version Christianity?
– not as demanding as disciples, who had to give up everything – but also not as dynamic or vivid
• we couldn’t expect to receive as much support
• we wouldn’t be led by the Spirit or empowered by him as much
• we wouldn’t be expected to do much in Jesus’ name
– would we take it? – have I already opted for it? – for that mediocre religious life Bonhoeffer called cheap grace?
• grace isn’t free because it’s bountiful, but because no one could afford it

Don’t take this the wrong way
– it doesn’t mean you have to do more – maybe you need to do less
• it means, whatever you do, you do passionately
• God told the church that was neither hot or cold to be zealous (Rev. 3:15-16, 19)
– it doesn’t mean we give up our ordinary lives
• it means we find in them a greater abundance of life

CONC: I’m not a big fan of mass evangelism

It seems unrealistic to expect a person to make such a huge decision without taking time to really think it over
– we would do at least that much before making a major purchase

I don’t think we jump into total loyalty to Jesus instantly
– the whole reason he made those radical statements about hating family, giving up all possessions, etc., was to force us to count cost
– to carefully consider the enormity of his challenge
• and to dive in with everything or else not at all

I do believe, however, we need to be growing that direction — that arriving at complete loyalty is a process
– that as we walk with Jesus, we find those harmful attachments in our heart and sever them

How can we tell if we are making progress in this direction?
– take an inventory:
What do we love?
What do we hate?
What are we at peace with?
What are we at war with?

It’s not just about knowing when it’s a time for love or hate
– it’s about knowing what to love and hate
And when to hate what we have loved – and love what we have hated

If we take the next step toward loyalty, we’ll find the love and support of the One who demands it
The One who takes our hand and guides us into the perfection of his grace

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