Galatians 5:19–21 (NKJV)
19Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
One of my friends is fond of remarking that sins are like grapes – they grow in bunches. So we have seen that Paul groups together various sexual sins – adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness – and then sins of worship – idolatry, sorcery/superstition – and now he addresses interpersonal sins. The first of these interpersonal sins is hatred: “The works of the flesh are evident, which are… hatred.”
The Greek word is ekthra. Foundationally, this hatred refers to a hatred of God. The unbelieving heart from which works of the flesh proceed hates God: “the carnal mind is enmity [hatred] against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be” (Rom 8:7). The carnal mind is set against against God – it hates God and hates God’s law. And the world – not the planet but the collection of those driven by their sinful nature – also hates God. Consequently, friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4) and the one who wants to be the friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
This hatred of God, this vertical hatred, manifests itself in other types of hatred, horizontal hatred, hatred of others. Cain hated Abel and killed him in cold blood. Esau hated Jacob and plotted to kill him. Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him into slavery. After he had raped her, Amnon hated Tamar and brought shame and misery upon her. Absalom hated Amnon and orchestrated his murder some two years later.
Such hatred ensnares not only individuals but groups – families, factions, tribes, nations, ethnicities. Thus the Edomites hated Israel despite their common heritage as descendants of Abraham: “…you have had an ancient hatred, and have shed the blood of the children of Israel by the power of the sword…” (Ezek 35:5) King Saul hated the Gibeonites and endeavored to destroy them with a form of ethnic cleansing (2 Sam 21). And in our day, unscrupulous politicians regularly inflame such hatred, pitting rich against poor, black against white, male against female. No wonder Paul describes our fallen state as “hateful and hating one another” (Tit 3:3).
Such ethnic hatred was in part reinforced by the ceremonial law of the old covenant which distinguished Jew and Gentile. Jews were circumcised; most Gentiles were not. Jews refused pork; most Gentiles did not. Jewish men could not shave certain portions of their beard; many Gentiles did. In Christ, these types of distinctions and the enmity they aroused have been broken down (Eph 2:14–16):
14For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.
In Christ neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; neither pork eaters nor non-pork eaters are anything; neither beard growers nor beard shavers are anything – what matters is keeping God’s moral law. Now that the Gospel is not limited to Israel but is being preached to all nations, such matters are adiaphora, things indifferent, areas where Christians are to extend grace to those who differ.
Thus, the Gospel teaches us to put away perverse hatred and to love our neighbor as ourselves – to treat our neighbor lawfully from the heart. To love one’s neighbor is to honor one’s own parents and to protect another’s life, marriage, property, and reputation knowing that this is the fear of the Lord. For though hatred often conceals and disguises itself, God will always bring it to judgment:
24He who hates, disguises it with his lips, And lays up deceit within himself; 25When he speaks kindly, do not believe him, For there are seven abominations in his heart; 26Though his hatred is covered by deceit, His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly. (Prov 26:24–26)
And so reminded that we are to put away hatred and to love our neighbor as ourselves, let us confess that we often are tempted to plot evil against our neighbor instead. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.