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Elijah and the Hate Preachers

"YHWH wants me to say something..."
"Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed." -James 5

The Bible says that Elijah was a human being like us. He was rugged man that lived during rugged times - the 9th Century B.C. in the Ancient Near East.

Israel had been experiencing a spiritual revolution away from YHWH to pagan gods. The wicked King Ahab took a Canaanite princess, Jezebel, as his wife. Under her influence the spiritual revolution embraced the full blown sexual consequences that naturally accompany such a change in worship. Our sexuality follows our spirituality.

When Israel worshipped YHWH, sex was seen as a gift to be enjoyed between husband and wife in the safe place of marriage. Deviations from that pattern were warned against. But when Israel started worshipping Master Baal, Lady Ashtoreth, and other pagan deities a flood of other sexual practices flooded the Holy Land on national scale.

Elijah loved Israel. It broke his heart that the people of God had wandered so far from their God. He prayed tirelessly that things might change. God used this prophet to speak hard words to the king and to the people of Israel. His hard words – because they were spoken from a place of compassion – produced soft hearts that repented of sin and returned to the living God. As their hearts came back into line with a righteous God, so did their pants.

Elijah and the Hate Preachers

There are some in today’s mainstream media that may have classified Elijah as a “hate preacher”. But speaking in such broad brush and sweeping ways reveals more about our culture that it does true Hebrew prophets. Those who have a heart to please God can tell the difference between a strong prophetic voice that is willing to speak what is unpopular - and mere hate speech. Yes, both the true prophet and the hate preacher may speak against something that is wrong. But that's where the similarities stop.

True prophets lose sleep praying down mercy upon those they preach to. 
Hate preachers do not care about those they preach against.

True prophets weep as they call the lost to turn from their sin. 
Hate preachers enjoy condemning the lost in their sin – whether they turn or not.

True prophets are quick to listen and slow to speak.
Hate preachers are quick to speak and slow to listen - especially to opposing views.

True prophets tremble at the enormity of their own sin. 
Hate preachers believe their own sin is small compared to those they condemn
True prophets can speak to a valley of dry bones and see a righteous army raised up. 
Hate preachers, with a self-righteous spirit, simply tell the bones how dry they are.

True prophets are aware that God hates all sin. 
Hate preachers only think He hates the particular sins that they are not guilty of.

True prophets take no joy in the attention (negetative or positive) their words may bring - they prefer to be alone with God.
Hate preachers seem to thrive on the attention and influence their words bring them - it makes them feel important. 

It's interesting that though Elijah spoke hard words, he was not a hard man. He spoke against sexual immorality and false religion, yet his housemate was a young widow from another culture and religion (1 Kings 17). He was kind and gracious to her and her young son. He could be personal friends with those he disagreed. This is not the personality of and relational grace of religious hate preachers.

This world has a lot religious hate preachers. I used to live as an ethnic minority in another country where it was not hard to hear the prayers of “Death to Israel, death to America, death to Great Britain” going up on a regular basis. Those prayers are common through much of the world. 

There are also many secular, irreligious hate preachers that condemn people of religious belief or people of other politics. In each case the problem is not that they strongly disagree with a belief or a lifestyle, but rather that they do not have humble and compassionate hearts towards those with whom they disagree.

"Christian" Hate Preachers

Steven Anderson - A misguided hate Preacher
and media pin up. Let's pray for him.
Earlier this year, I wrote about reckless responses to Islamisation. It was a couple of pieces warning against the growing nationalism that many see influencing politics in both the USA and UK. Sadly, it seems there are a handful of preachers who in a desire to get well known - or for whatever reason - are tapping into this current mood. As they wave their Bibles, they're getting a hearing and begininng to form small groups which replace Jesus’ call to serve the Kingdom with a hyped up, quasi-form of patriotic nationalism.

The actual numbers in these groups are quite small – the largest is Steven Anderson’s church of 300 in USA. But because of media attention, they seem far bigger – and have a much lounder voice – then their small numbers actually warrant. These groups are not physically violent, but their words are very mean and their hearts are hard.

Having worked and travelled in Christian circles for most of my life, I am thankful that most Christian preachers are, well, Christian. Christianity is unique from other belief systems in that in order to enter it, you must first confess that you are completely unqualified to do so.

That's why the term “Christian Hate Preachers” is a bit of an oxymoron. One of Jesus’ most central commands is to “Love your enemies and bless those who curse you” (Matt.5.44). We're called to love terrorists, paedophiles, trans-prostitutes, bank CEOs, Tories, Democrats, Nazis, Communists, Republicans, Labour politicians, day time television hosts – and yes, we are even called to love hate preachers. 

Because of the attention that media has given these guys, it has the effect of silencing good, humble preachers who would - like Elijah - want to want to warn against spiritual and sexual compromise in the church. They are silent because they fear being lumped together in popular opinion with the haters. This silence is also pride - just from the other direction.

The church does not need self-righteous, hate-filled preachers. Nor does it need silent ones who side step or compromise on important issues from the platform. We need those who can pray and speak in the courage and compassion of an Elijah. We need this because Elijah points us to Jesus. His cross is a message of both offensive truth and radical love. 

Jesus' death speaks the hard truth that you are so wicked and evil that the perfect Son of God had to be crucified in order to save you. 

At the same time it speaks a message of unspeakable love: that God so cared for you that he was willing to leave heaven to do so.

[For a good example of how Christians can denounce hate preachers, please see the video of Dr. Michael Brown’s denunciation (here) of Steven Anderson’s hate speech – a pastor made famous through a BBC documentary]
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Related Article: Is Jesus really silent on Homosexuality?

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  1. Wow, awesome article. I did watch the BBC documentary and true, it is somewhat disturbing. Thank you for such clarity. God bless u


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