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Is Debate Hate?

One of the alarming trends in today’s culture is the labeling of dissent (disagreement with a stated view) as “hate speech.” A popular name for those who disagree is “haters.” The last few years have seen public discussion of such topics as abortion, same-sex marriage, legalization of certain drugs, etc., effectively shut down because those against such actions are seen to be “full of hate.”

Now admittedly, anyone involved in a disagreement can be motivated by hate. That there are people, on both sides of current controversies, who are using hate-filled tactics and speech, seems to be clearly evident. However, no one can properly discuss the rightness and wrongness of a matter without taking a stand. If they cannot take a stand without being accused of hate, then we are all in trouble.

The Lord Jesus Christ was the most controversial person of his day. He brought spiritual light into the world (John 1:5). It was inevitable that spiritual light would clash with spiritual darkness. (John 1:5). However, even though Jesus was controversial, he was not driven or marred by hate. His arguments were logical and sound. At times, he left his enemies speechless because he had answered them so well (Luke 20:40). His motivation, even in his controversies was to that which was good (Acts 10:38). Yet, Jesus was hated (John 15:18). The method of his death and the high level of emotion which accompanied it testified to the hatred in the hearts of those who brought it about.

Paul, a follower of Jesus, engaged interested parties in discussion. When he did so, the inevitable occurred: sides were chosen. One of those discussions is described in Acts 17:3: “And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, This Jesus who I proclaim to you is the Christ.” (ESV) The Bible also says that Paul’s enemies “were jealous” and that they “formed a mob,” and “set the city in an uproar” (Acts 17:5).

Both Jesus and Paul were interested in truth. They were not trying to harm people. Their attitude was that of love and concern for their listeners. Their motives, their words and their actions were pure.

We must remember that we are God’s people and we do not use the weapons of the devil. If I disagree with you and my motives, words and deeds are pure, and you hate me, there is just one question left. “Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16)

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