We rarely associate Jesus with hatred. Jesus is all about love. He tells us to love one another because he loved the world, and his followers will be known by their love. But did you know that the Bible tells us that Jesus also hates things?
In the book of Revelation, the Apostle John is writing down the words being revealed to him on the island of Patmos. The first part of his vision is of the resurrected Jesus and the glory of his might. The next part of the book contains his letters to the seven Churches of Asia Minor. In this section, Jesus tells the Church in Ephesus, “But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” (Revelation 2:6 – NIV 2011)
According to early Church fathers, the Nicolaitans derive their name from one of the deacons enlisted to serve in Acts chapter 6. Nicolas was said to have apostatized and become the founder of a religious sect. This conclusion is somewhat of speculation as there is no direct evidence. Others have said that he did walk away from the traditional faith but did not form a sect; thus, his name is used like Balaam and Jezebel in these chapters of Revelations as symbolic with those who deny proper religious belief. We can be sure that this group stepped away from the New Testament teachings somewhere in early Church history and formed their new religious congregation.
Most scholars agree that this group had severed themselves from the Church in two ways, and probably both as they overlap. The first mistake they made was to accept a teaching called Gnosticism. This teaching states that the only thing significant in faith is what you know and believe in your heart. Faith is separate from actions. You can do whatever you like as long as you hold the right convictions. The second part of their belief is a natural outworking of the first. If it doesn’t matter what you do with your physical body, then giving oneself over to all sexual relations was acceptable. Living together, adultery, homosexuality, and all forms of sexual immorality are permissible as long as you still believe Jesus is your Savior. While there is some speculation as to the extent of this group’s depravity, everyone does agree that their step outside of faith was marked by immorality.
The words of Jesus in Revelation chapter 2 remind us that Jesus hates people who claim to follow him and yet have no desire for holiness. They speak of grace without transformation. They teach justification without sanctification. Their words are of Jesus as Savior but not Lord. The message of salvation is not connected to discipleship. The people wanted all the good parts of the gospel without taking up a cross.
Jesus says, “I hate that,” and he is happy that this Church does too.
Sometimes we need to be reminded that grace is not cheap and following Jesus calls for radical transformation. That message may sound harsh in the eyes of the world, but a true love of Jesus requires that we hate what is evil.