Offense can easily turn into hatred, and hatred is murder’s twin. I’ll show you what I mean in a minute, but first, let’s look at a few things the Bible has to say about hatred. They’re pretty startling, and they give us good reason to be diligent about not letting our offense spiral out of control into hatred.
I John 4:20 says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
Continuing to hate someone means you don’t love God, and it also could mean that your very salvation is in question. “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.” (1 John 2:9)
1 John 3:15 goes on to say, “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.”
This is serious stuff, but remember, Satan was once described as the most subtle of all creatures. In Genesis 3:1 we read the account of Eve being tempted by the serpent (see Revelations 12:9, Revelation 20:2 for the connection between the serpent and Satan): “Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the women, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”
Satan is subtle, and he’s been around since people were created, observing them and tempting them. He understands people very well, and just as he tempted Eve through the power of suggestion, he injects thoughts into our minds to keep us offended and to lead us to hatred because he knows it’s an easy way to get us to offend God.
Stage 1 — Unforgiveness
This is the first stage in the downward spiral of offense. This stage is most clearly marked by keeping a record of wrongs. So, whenever you catch yourself rehearsing a conflict and feeling the anger and offense rising up, it’s a red flag.
Once you recognize the red flag, you have a choice:
- You can admit that you’re being tempted to slip back into unforgiveness and then make the choice once again to walk through the process of forgiving someone that we outlined in yesterday’s post
- Or you can give your thoughts over to the offense, rehearsing the situation in your mind over and over, thinking of what you could have and should have said and spiraling deeper and deeper into bitterness.
Stage 2 — Resentment
Resentment is the product of meditating on the offense, rolling it around in your mind and chewing on it until the offense takes a firm hold in your spirit.
Obviously, it’s harder to release it in this stage, but it’s not impossible. If you catch yourself here, just go back to forgiveness again.
Stage 3 — Revenge
If you stay in resentment long enough, eventually you will begin to want revenge. Sometimes it’s as basic as wanting to “put the person in their place,” but it can also be more elaborate. Regardless of what it looks like, Stage 3 of offense says, “you need to pay for what you did to me.”
Stage 4 — Hatred
You can be sure that you’re in full blown hatred mode when you can’t be in the same room with the person who offended you. When the very thought of the person repulses you, it’s hatred all right.
Stage 5 — Violence
Matthew 5:21, 22 says, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.”
The Greek word for “angry” in this verse means “enraged with”. It makes sense that being enraged with someone puts you in the same category as murderers because hatred leads to an elimination mindset.
Basically, it goes like this — the hatred takes over and declares, “You WILL feel my pain! You WILL hear my cry! And I WILL eliminate you!”
Stage 6 — Elimination
Elimination doesn’t have to be physical murder. Although in extreme cases, it can go there. But it can also look the kind of verbal abuse that’s aimed at silencing someone. It can be an assassination of a person’s character to other people. It can be an attempt at isolating them from people and things. Elimination can look like dehumanization, demoralization and estrangement.
This list of stages is a tool for discernment. Do a self-check and figure out where you are. Remember that God can work in all of it. So matter where you find yourself on the list, make the choice to go back to forgiveness, and ask God to come in and help.
Hatred might feel temporarily good to the flesh, but the consequences are not worth it.