The Separation of Church and Hate

It was one of those tough moments when the air feels oppressive and you start to sweat.

A good friend sat across from me on my couch, fumbling with her rings. She had just broken the news to me: “I’m getting a divorce.” It felt weighty, even unbelievable. As she sat on my couch and poured her heart out about how terrible her husband was and how she wanted out of her marriage, I didn’t know what to say.

The ‘old Ruthie’ would have grabbed my Bible off the table and pointed to verses where God says divorce is a sin. I would have begged her to reconsider and rose up and shouted, “God hates divorce!” like I grew up hearing church people say. Three years ago, I would have made sure she understood from me what God felt about her considering this choice.

I used to be very concerned with fixing people, altering their behavior, making sure their sin list wasn’t too lengthy.

But now? I try to stake my flag in the camp of love.

On my couch that day, I could have made a point — but would I have made a difference?

Let me explain. One of my all-time favorite talks from Andy Stanley is “Separation of Church & Hate”.

In this sermon, Stanley shows how it’s easier to make a point; to adopt a policy; to put up a billboard or hand out a pamphlet. But making a difference is messier. It requires relating to people with whom we may not agree. But that is exactly what Jesus modeled.

Point-makers drive people away; difference-makers get down in the mud with hurting people.

It’s easy to quote a Bible verse, stay away from certain people, or be ‘against’ something — but making a difference in someone’s life — loving radically despite one’s choices — that’s the hard work. The work that makes all the difference.

I grew up in a family where it seemed we were against everything: gay people, the newspaper, television, even democrats and UGA football. Many churches get the reputation for being against certain sins, instead of being for, say, helping people in need or loving the broken.

I see too many living in almost paranoia about sin, and retreating to safe, little bubbles where we keep track of sin records and talk about accountability.

It comes naturally to give you five reasons why a certain behavior or lifestyle is wrong. But we can spend all our energy against behaviors, people and organizations, OR we can simply love. I’ve slowly learned the distinction between making a point and making a difference — and difference-makers are the ones who make relational evangelism work. People don’t want to become followers of Jesus when we make it look like a list of rules.