Written by: Dr Brian de Vries
Article source: JOY! Magazine
Racism, greed, exploitation, destructive anger, and gender-based violence. These social problems are too common in our world today. Every day we are confronted with sad stories of selfish people who commit such acts, and of many people who suffer as a result.
What causes these problems?
Hostility is often found at the heart of these ugly evils that harm our society. Hostility is a deep-seated ill will, often expressed in conflict, opposition, or resistance. Google says “hostility can be normal, and is only an indicator of underlying disease when feelings become excessive, all-consuming and interfere with daily living”. Many people treat hostility as a symptom of human weakness like Antisocial Personality Disorder, a mental disorder characterised by disregard for other people. Or it’s seen as the result of a health condition like schizophrenia, a disorder affecting a person’s ability to think, feel, and behave clearly.
What does the Bible say?
The Bible teaches that hostility is the direct result of human sin. It’s an expression of hatred, a lack of love in the heart. Hostility entered the world as a result of the Devil’s temptation (Gen 3:15). Adam’s sin was an act of rebellion against God’s law, and hostility is a result of this rebellion. This hostility was soon seen in Adam’s family: his first son Cain killed his second son Abel. God’s law for Israel distinguished between unintentional harm and the greater problem of intentional harm (Num 35); God makes provision for mistakes, but hostility has no place to flee. God’s wisdom says, “The one who conceals [hostility] has lying lips” and “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and [hostility] with it” (Prov 10:18, 15:17). God’s prophet describes this heart-wickedness: “With his mouth each speaks peace to his neighbour, but in his heart he plans [hostility] for him” – Jeremiah 9:8. The Bible speaks honestly about this heart-sin as the cause of many social problems.
Against others or against God?
The sin of hostility has a long history. Sometimes it causes open conflict, like devastating warfare, merciless genocide, and other dreadful scenes of human destruction. Other times it’s more subtly expressed in economic exploitation, sex slavery, and persistent racism. It’s also seen behind outbursts of anger: Why are people so enraged against others – even strangers – who disagree with them? Some sociologists say our social problems are the result of broken social systems, and this has some merit. But the underlying cause of these problems – both systems and people in the systems – is much deeper, coming from the human heart. The heart of this human problem is that these hostilities are a problem of the human heart. The source of hostility is rebellion and enmity against God Himself: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” – Romans 8:7. Sinful people are hostile towards others because they are not filled with the love and peace of God.
How can we escape hostility?
What is the cure for this heart-hostility? The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only cure. Only Christ’s victory over the devil can remove the curse of hostility in the world (Gen 3:15). Only Christ, the Great Physician, can heal this deeply-rooted hurt (Jer 8:22). Only Christ our Mediator can kill human hostility, replacing it with His self-giving love and true peace. By His death on the Cross, Christ reconciled sinners with God, and with each other too: “You, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him” – Colossians 1:21-22. By His atoning death, Christ has put hostility to death (Eph 2:16).
Is Christ killing your hostility?
It’s easy to see hostility in other people’s lives. But this sin lives within all of Adam’s children, a family filled with hostility since the first sin. We must admit, when honest, that we are not always filled with Christ’s self-giving love in every situation. Christ’s true peace does not always rule in our hearts (Col 3:15). Our actions, at times, betray us, and then we realise the ugly sin of hostility is still alive in our hearts.
Do you want Christ to help you kill this toxic sin? Here is a prayer for Christ’s Spirit to work peace in your heart:
• Please kill the remaining hostilities in my heart: rebellion against Your law, and lack of love for people created in Your image.
• Please uncover to me the sins remaining in my life. Help me see them, hate them, and turn from them. Work powerfully in my heart, Holy Spirit, to remove these deeply-rooted sins: selfish pride, racism, resentment, etc.
• Please heal our churches and communities by killing hostility and working spiritual peace. Help us seek peace and practice repentance, forgiveness, and true fellowship.
There is victory in Christ
The bad news is that this toxic sin still causes terrible problems in the world, and even in God’s church today. But the good news is that Christ’s victory is certain, Christ’s Gospel is powerful, and Christ’s Spirit continues to help us kill our remaining heart-sins of hostility.
Dr Brian De Vries is Principal and Senior Lecturer at Mukhanyo Theological College. He has planted three churches around Pretoria and also serves as a visiting professor at PRTS in the United States.
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