Thou shalt not kill. Exodus 20:13
Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:10
The Way of Thankful Obedience, on which we are traveling, is like a freeway. It is like a freeway, first, because the free, unmerited grace of God has put us on this way; and while journeying on this Way, we are free to serve God. But it is also like a freeway because of how one exits it.
To exit the Way of Thankful Obedience, you see, does not necessarily require that we first come to a complete stop, consciously decide to turn left or right, wait for traffic to clear, and then turn. Stop lights and sharp turns are not found on freeways. To exit the Way of Thankful Obedience, we simply bear gently right onto the exit ramp. To remain on that Way, we stay left. Just like a freeway.
There are two kinds of people who get off freeways. One kind has consciously decided that they must get off at a certain exit, so they deliberately bear right on that exit ramp. The other kind knows that good drivers stay to the right when not passing another vehicle. So they stay to the right—and, because they are distracted, they bear right onto the exit ramp not realizing what they are doing. Too late! They have exited the freeway, and must find an entrance to the freeway again.
So there are two kinds of people who leave the Way of Thankful Obedience for Haters Boulevard. One kind has determined to hate. They want to hate. They love to hate. They simply have no desire to love their neighbor. They are deliberately on Haters Boulevard. The other kind does not intend to travel on Haters Boulevard at all. They love God, and are grateful for His saving work. But they are not always aware of the dangers which lie ahead; they are too distracted to notice the signs on the road; and suddenly, they find themselves on Haters Boulevard, scrambling to find an entrance to the Way of Thankful Obedience again!
Which kind of driver are you, young people?
I’m the latter kind. I’d like to say that I’m neither kind; that I never take an exit off the Way of Thankful Obedience. But we all know better. Though saved, I must still fight sin. And so must you.
So, together, let us take a refresher course in driving! The lesson is entitled, “Avoiding Hater’s Boulevard.”
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The reason to avoid Hater’s Boulevard is, of course, that it is so dangerous. No, it does not seem to be, especially immediately after exiting the Way of Thankful Obedience. It seems to be a well paved road, leading to a nice city. But…travel on it awhile, and the road deteriorates; you see many potholes; finally the pavement ends and the wide boulevard becomes just a gravel road; then it becomes a narrow one lane road; and suddenly it ends at a cliff. Over the cliff one sees smashed vehicles and dead bodies.
Young people, I think you understand what I am saying. The danger of hatred is hell. Jesus Himself told us, “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matthew 5:22); and, in the same verse He warns us that whoever says to his brother “Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”
The apostle John said: “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him” (I John 3:15). One implication of this statement is that one who hates cannot experience God’s love or enjoy God’s fellowship.
We must avoid Hater’s Boulevard!
That is exactly God’s warning to us in the sixth commandment: “Thou shalt not kill.” And, this warning is not merely that we should refrain from the act of killing, as if only those who kill, without repenting, will go to hell. Rather, when God forbids killing, He forbids every action, word, and thought which is motivated by hatred. Not killing only, but everything that shows that you wish the other person to be removed from your life and presence, is forbidden. All hatred leads to hell.
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But how do we avoid Hater’s Boulevard?
Of course, the answer is: Watch where you are driving! Stay on the Way of Thankful Obedience. That is, continue to remember that God saved us from traveling on this boulevard, and gave us grace to love. And be thankful for that!
Love! That is the way to avoid Hater’s Boulevard.
We know that we are called to love our neighbor—every single person with whom we come into contact. This love which the sixth commandment requires of us does not mean that we must desire and delight in the fellowship of each and every person with whom we come into contact—emphatically Scripture calls us to live a life of spiritual separation from the ungodly. The love of fellowship may be shown only to fellow saints and Christians. But the love which we are called to show to every person with whom we come into contact is the love of seeking their good.
We are to love them by seeking their earthly good. We must be patient (slow to anger) toward them; peaceable, not ready to fight with fists or words; merciful, ready to help them in their needs and troubles; kind; and ready to do good in every way. This we are called to do toward believers and unbelievers alike.
We are to love them also by seeking their spiritual good. This requires us to speak to them of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and especially to warn the ungodly and unbelievers of the destruction toward which they are headed. Sometimes God uses such witnessing to bring them to Christ. Other times He uses it to leave them without excuse for their hatred and unbelief. Always He uses it to accomplish His good purpose.
Such love is not at all easy for us. To stay on the Way of Thankful Obedience does not come naturally.
This is true, first, because God’s law requires us to love even our enemies (see Matthew 6:44, Romans 12:20). In these verses, our enemy is not one whom we hate, but one who hates us, persecutes us, despitefully uses us. We are to show them love, in return for their hatred! This is difficult to do.
Secondly, this is difficult because God’s law requires us to love those whom we think are inferior to us! Of course, such thinking in itself is wrong; we must esteem others better than ourselves (Phil. 2:3). Yet it is true that we think of ourselves more highly than many fellow saints in church or school. To love some people would not be “cool.” To love them might mean that others shun us.
And, of course, this is difficult because by nature hatred dwells in our hearts. What Jesus told the Jews is also true of us by nature: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning…” (John 8:44).
Although difficult, this love is possible. God gives His children grace to love in Jesus Christ. To deny this would be to deny the regenerating and sanctifying work of Christ. Young people—do you confess to be saved children of God? Then you say of yourselves that you are able to love your neighbor—every neighbor!
The way to guard against unintentionally exiting the Way of Thankful Obedience for Haters Boulevard is the way of seeking the grace of God in Christ every day in prayer. And such prayer must come from a heart that knows the danger is real!
Knowing our salvation, and seeking grace in prayer, we should do one other thing to help us guard against the danger of finding ourselves on Haters Boulevard: we should look to the love of Christ.
This love of Christ is our example. He devoted Himself to loving those who by nature hated Him—namely, His church! Selflessly, unconditionally, faithfully, continually, He loved us. So ought we to love each other.
This love of Christ is our salvation. Apart from it, we could never love!
Therefore, this love of Christ must also be our motivation. We will love, because Christ so loved us!
By loving, we remain on The Way of Thankful Obedience. And that Way ends, not at a cliff, but where Christ Himself is—in heaven!