Love and hate. Love is an intense feeling of deep affection, while hate is an intense feeling of dislike. They are polar opposites, yet we find both terms discussed throughout the Bible. When we read Scripture, we often read about God’s love. John 3:16 is, arguably, the most popular verse in all of Scripture to sum up God’s love for us:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
God’s love knows no boundaries or limitations. He is love and therefore, the standard by which we should learn how to love.
On the other hand, there’s hate. The Bible commands us to hate sin, but never others. In fact, we are to love our enemies. The commandments tell us that to hate someone in our heart is the same as murder. Hate is a dangerous emotion. While hate isn’t always a sin, it depends on the context in which it’s used.
However, there is something equally dangerous, if not more so: Indifference. Indifference means lack of interest, concern, or sympathy; the matter is unimportant.
I confess this is a sin I battled for years. I was indifferent to the Bible. I was indifferent to the sacrifice of Jesus. And I was indifferent to my need for a relationship with God. To those around me, though—I was a pretty “good” person. Most thought I had my head on straight and treated others kindly. I said “Please,” and “Thank you,” and chewed with my mouth closed. I blended into society as a decent, law-abiding citizen. Sure, I believed in God, but I didn’t pray. I didn’t tell others about Jesus. Frankly, I didn’t think about it. God and the Bible didn’t have a place in my life. In short, I was indifferent to what mattered most.
Scripture tells us that my attitude was vile to God:
“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.’” ~ Revelation 3:1-16
My indifference kept me from appreciating the beauty and fulfillment that comes from a personal relationship with Jesus. Sadly, now that my eyes are open to this truth, it breaks my heart, because I see it all around me, even from people I love very much.
So what’s the harm in indifference? Why is this a big deal? And most of all, why can indifference be as bad as outright hatred?
Because indifference doesn’t even care. It says the situation or person at hand aren’t worth the emotional energy either way. And in this case—we’re talking about indifference against our Heavenly Father. Our Creator. Our Savior. The One who loved us so much that He willingly allowed Himself to be nailed to a cross for us. The One who could have saved Himself, but chose to die for our sins.
Indifference is a slap in the face to the greatest gift mankind ever received: Jesus Christ.
So why do we become indifferent? For some, it’s simply because they weren’t raised with spiritual matters being a priority; their indifference is more about ignorance than it is deliberate defiance. Others may have been raised in the church, but see the sacrifice of Christ in a sanitized, impersonal manner because they’ve not taken the time to appreciate the dirty reality of the crucifixion. Or maybe, it’s simply a matter of taking the gift of salvation for granted, the way we take for granted that our cars will start in the morning or our spouse will have dinner on the table when we get home from work.
In the book of Ephesians, Paul wrote to the church, complimenting them on their hard work for the church and their obvious love for Christ.
“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,” ~ Ephesians 1:15-16
However, years later, the church had become indifferent. John wrote this about the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:4:
“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.”
Relationships take work; an investment of time and energy. Of course, any newlywed will disagree, but those who have been in long-term relationships know that over time, we take people we love for granted. We lose our passion. Our zeal wanes. The same applies to all kinds of relationships. However, when we lose our focus or let other things take priority in our lives, even the most important relationships can suffer or become stale. And no relationship is more important than the one we have with Jesus.
We avoid indifference when we make Bible reading a part of our daily lives. When we pray every day. When we take the time to listen and learn from our Savior.
If you are in a season of indifference, or have never made Christ a priority in your life, I pray that you will rediscover your first love, or I pray you will find the greatest love story—the one that was written just for you.