“I don’t think you should preach hate at church. Isn’t going to church about love and faith and stuff?” That was the question a nurse had asked me. He had been telling me about his experience with a pastor that condemned other religions and denominations. I cannot pass judgment on the pastor he spoke of as I do not know him, what he said, nor the context in which he said it. But I did notice a familiar turn of phrase in the young man’s words: “I don’t think you should preach hate at church.” Any decisive statement against another person’s beliefs or views is described as “hate”. Tolerance now seems to insist on “no absolute truth.” Unfortunately the nurse was called away before I could answer. Below is what I would like to have said.
Truth is truth. Everyone cannot be right. Someone who believes something besides the truth believes a lie. To speak truth and point out where other individuals, groups, religions, or denominations are wrong is not hate. It is love for truth. The truth offends some people. I should do my best to not be personally offensive in the manner in which I deliver the truth (2Tim. 2:24-25). But if the truth itself offends, let it offend.
The source of truth is God’s word (John 17.17) and it tells us that Jesus is the only way of salvation. “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, ESV) And the Apostle Peter states, “…there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12, ESV)
Grounded in the truth of God’s word, the Reformation statement that “we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone” still stands true today. Any religion or denomination that teaches otherwise teaches lies. The Apostle Paul strongly condemned those that sought to distort the Gospel by adding works to Christ’s atoning work: “there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:7–8, ESV) The word ‘accursed’ means “under God’s curse”. Later Paul says, “I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” (Gal. 5:12, ESV) Not hateful words. Strong words. But the gospel is not to be trifled with.
Church is not just for teaching ‘love and faith and stuff’. It is also where Gospel truth is declared and false teaching is condemned.
Further reading: 2Tim. 2:24-25; John 17.17; Gal.3.1-14; Rom. 3:21–25
David Harris is the Senior Pastor at Faith Baptist Church. A former programmer, in his free time he enjoys spending time with his wife Kim and trying his hand at the illusive craft of smoking meat.