Are Christians hateful?

Hi everyone,

In my context (the United States), there’s an association that Christian = hateful.

Depending on the situation, it might be said that Christians hate gay people, people of color, women, the poor, or certain political leaders.

To be open about it, sometimes this is more specifically a charge against white, male, evangelicals, which is a group I’m in.

Whether you are a white male evangelical or not, you might think of some other examples where Christians are considered hateful?

What do we make of this?

As I’ve reflected on this, here are a few initial thoughts:

First, sadly, it’s clear that this is true. It’s not true of every Christian at every moment, but it is true that many who bear the name of Christ have demonstrated hatred in these ways.

And to the degree that a Christian has hated their neighbor, 1 John requires us to confess our sins:

If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

It’s no good being defensive. If a particular accusation is true, it’s a gift that opens us to the path of confession and repentance. I think we should work to avoid being defensive about this, especially when specific examples of Christians being hateful are provided.

Second, I think the critique of Christians is often harsh because of the pain that this hatred has caused.

Instead of retaliating with a harsh comeback, Romans 12 teaches us, “weep with those who weep.”

In reckoning with this hurt, it seems appropriate to acknowledge and grieve the pain that has been experienced.

Third, my heart is also burdened by this because of how our reputation for hating our neighbor violates the message of Jesus.

In the Sermon on the Mount, he taught us:

You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor*and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Fourth, if this is about a matter of how we understand sin, it gets harder. One thought is, I think we need to maintain a way of hating sin - but loving sinners. C.S. Lewis wrote about the distinction in this way:

Now that I come to think of it, I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that I must hate a bad man’s actions, but not hate the bad man: or, as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner.

For a long time I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man?

But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life—namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why l hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things.

Consequently, Christianity does not want us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and treachery. We ought to hate them. Not one word of what we have said about them needs to be unsaid. But it does want us to hate them in the same way in which we hate things in ourselves: being sorry that the man should have done such things, and hoping, if it is anyway possible, that somehow, sometime, somewhere he can be cured and made human again.

When we see that sin disfigures all of us, our hearts are burdened for those we know to be restored to wholeness.

Fifth, it seems to me that Christians have a responsibility to identify the good in others. We believe that every person bears God’s image. What if we start relationships by looking for something to appreciate? It seems quite elementary, but clearly, our starting point isn’t to point out someone’s sin but to enjoy a new friend.

I’m curious to hear from you: why have Christians earned this reputation?

And what would it look like for us to demonstrate a different approach?


This questions seems to be somewhat complex. Since Carson already presented one facet of the whole, I’ll attempt to examine the question from a slightly different approach.

I loved the C.S Lewis quote. The thing that makes his discerning comment effective (in my opinion) is that there is some understanding and collective agreement regarding what is considered lamentable (cowardice, greed, conceit, cruelty, treachery…), at least among Christians.

Unfortunately, in todays postmodern era, Christendom has suffered tremendously, particularly in the way of collective agreement regarding Biblical understanding. Most of the high profile (so called) Christian leaders in the U.S are pictures of pomp, luxury, and excess. Again, many Christian leaders fall to the demanding desire to be accepted and thought well of by general society, being victims of the spirit of the age. In recent news, a well known preacher came out saying that autism is a demon spirit (flagrantly false).

With so many clamoring and competing voices within what parades itself as Christianity, to me it is no wonder that people think Christianity is hateful. What difference do those outside of Christianity see in the morality of Christian leaders/ professors and the irreligious? In this context, and without the ability to differentiate between factions, Christians who hold to sound doctrine, especially regarding sin, are perceived as hypocritical and hateful.

In my opinion, the only way to go about impeding this widely popularized image of Christianity is through authentic servants of Christ, with sincere compassion for others, as we interact in our relationships with all people (especially unbelievers), knowing and representing Christ well.

Finally, I second Carson’s Fifth point!!!


Part of my reading today was from Colossians 4.5-6, and it beautifully addresses the questions asked in this post.

“Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

In these verses, Paul addresses the way a Christian should act and speak so that there is no dichotomy between the two. The first thing he tell us is to, “Be wise in the way we act towards outsiders.” The word for ‘wise’ in the Greek is the word 'Sophia 'and one of the definitions given in Thayer’s Greek Lexicon is:
The knowledge and skill in affairs requisite for the successful defense of the Christian cause against hostile accusations.

It carries with it the idea of conduct, the way we walk and behave in front of unbelievers. Further study of this word shows that it was written in the imperative mood which means it is a command we are to implement and not a suggestion when convenient.

Warren Wiersbe describes “walking in wisdom” in this way: “It means that we are careful not to say or do anything that would make it difficult to share the Gospel.” This doesn’t mean we don’t ever confront sin, but when we do it comes from a heart of humility that readily acknowledges we, too, are fellow strugglers in sin and not self-appointed moral policemen whose job is to point fingers and find fault. The apostle Peter says it best in 1 Peter 2.12 “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.”

There are numerous displays of “walking in wisdom” in the scriptures. One is from the book of Daniel in the way he responded to the King Nebuchadnezzar’s chief official. He “asked for permission not to defile himself.” In doing so, he showed trust in God and respect for someone in authority over him that he did not agree with. God worked favorably on his behalf. Another example is a parable Jesus shared with his disciples about a dishonest steward. In it Jesus says, “The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness (wisdom).” Luke 16.8

Verse 6 of Colossians 4 tells us, “Let your conversation be always full of salt, seasoned with a pinch of grace.” Oh, wait. That’s not what it says. But it reminds me of how I can sometimes be tempted to deal with outsiders. Having eaten food with way too much salt, it makes it hard to swallow. No matter how high the quality of food or how good it was supposed to taste, the salt overshadowed everything. Upon reflection, it’s the “full of grace” part I find so convicting when people respond that way to me. Because I don’t deserve it and I know it on a deep level, without being told. Because it’s not the norm in most human interactions and conversations. Because grace exposes my sin and shortcomings without pointing a finger or bringing public shame. Because it is still one of the means Christ uses to communicate His character to the world every day.

I do think we have rightfully earned the reputation of being hateful. That is one of the reasons I am thankful and excited for platforms like UP that seek to make a difference, and set a precedence, in the way the Christian community responds to one another as well as to those who are not believers. It seems like a daunting task, but fortunately we have His promise that it is never might or power that prevails, but His Spirit. Zechariah 4.6 In this we rejoice because He is still providing opportunities for us to make the most of.


Hello @mary, I really like this analogy you gave. Would you please explain a little more what you consider to be too much salt in the context of a conversation, as well as what you understand grace to be in this scenario?

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Hi @holly . Thank you for your question. I view the “Let your conversation be…seasoned with salt” in this context as the ability to sprinkle truth from God’s word into a dialogue that is in keeping with that particular discussion. How much truth to share can depend on the listener. We are told to speak in a way that “is helpful to building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4.29.

What I say to a believer would, most likely, not be the same thing I would say to a non-believer. Case in point: I have two friends who are worldviews apart on many issues. Both have children who are now young adults. These young adults (not acquainted with each other) have chosen a lifestyle that is not in keeping with the way they were raised. Both moms have struggled, but for very different reasons. Because of the opposing worldviews, the approaches to sharing truth must be different.

Tim Keller sums it up well (doesn’t he always) with a recent quote on Twitter: “What is contextualization? It’s adapting your message to be understandable and compelling to particular hearers without compromising the truth in any way.”

I would define “too much salt” as using the Word inappropriately. This could mean wielding it as a weapon to criticize or shame someone by pointing out their faults and shortcomings or using it in an incongruous manner with people who are unfamiliar with Biblical parlance or have no background or understanding of Christian terminology. Other ways could be an inaccurate interpretation of scripture or contextual distortion.

How the “full of grace” scenario plays out also depends upon the listener. Are they a believer who is knowingly and unrepentantly walking in sin? Are they hostile to God? Are they genuinely searching? Are they indifferent? Are they broken? Jesus brutally uncovered and exposed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees while graciously covering, with His forgiveness, the woman who was (literally) exposed in the act of adultery. In both cases, He displayed grace. How? The motive was to bring about a repentant heart so the relationship with Him could be restored.

I hope this has answered your questions. I welcome your thoughts and insight and knowing what has worked for you in relating to those God has placed in your path.


What a relevant question! It is one that true christians may ask in the course of processing church hurt and one that non-christians pose to true christians. I recognize that there truly has been much damage done in the name of Christianity, and no discussion on improving christian love can be had without humility and confession. I agree with the wise insights already shared and seen personally how firmly held beliefs can divide people when conversations are lacking in grace and wisdom.

As I thought about this question, my focus was more on the underlying motivations for expressions and perceptions of hate. I asked to what extent could misguided understanding on what it means to be a christian and what it means to love can contribute to the problem.

What does it mean to be a christian?
Not everyone who calls themselves a christian is a christian, something not all non-christians realize. The book of 1 John is especially helpful in understanding the marks of a true christian. According to 1 John 3:10, true christians in addition to their confession about Jesus Christ, will seek to practice righteousness and love their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

What does it mean to love?
1 John 5:3 says, “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments”, commandments which God gave for human good. So christian love is guided by biblical commandments and it may not always agree with our feelings. So technically, we may sense hate even when some one is trying to love. The verse also opens the possibility to sense hate when someone fails to follow God’s commandments, misinterprets the commandments, or seeks their own selfish interests rather than God’s.

So when christians experience hate in church, perhaps a few questions can help assess the situation. Whats the motivation behind hate experienced? Was it because of a misinterpretation or rebellion towards the Lord? Was there a fault with our own perception or actions? Did we have unrealistic expectations? Have we considered giving grace and time for mistakes made by sincere christians?

In my experience, church can easily become a place of judgmentalism depending on how we understand grace and law. Christians differ on where they lie on the spectrum between licentiousness and legalism and problems start when they are too far apart on the spectrum. Its also possible to project a single bad experience on the whole church or denomination. I think its a symptom that seems to arise out of a need for protecting self from further hurt and is justified by labeling others as hateful. Hurt christians may struggle to forgive others and to see others as broken people who also have needs like themselves. In the worst cases, the selfish tendencies lead to spiritual abuse and cover up. In some situations, what seems to keep christians together is not Christ but something else! Often times christian lifestyle is about engaging in activities with other christians. While nothing wrong with pursuing activities together, its a problem if those activities becomes more important than Christ. When christians differ on important issues, these activities can’t keep them in love without Christ binding them together.

For many of my non-christian friends, a lack of understanding among christians leads to a perception that christian teaching is all about doctrine that makes no difference in the heart of a person. Their suspicions that exclusive claims of christianity can’t result in love only get further fossilized in their minds when they see disunity among christians. Its so sad that christians who are meant to be known for love are known for hate!

So in a nutshell, it might appear that christians are hateful but that is not where true christian faith would lead. But how do we change this?

I think @Carson, @holly and @mary have already made great suggestions. I might just emphasize the importance of developing a relationship to get to know the underlying motivations. We may find common ground on underlying motivations though we differ in definitions, facts and solutions. We can pray for ourselves to lean more on Christ and for those we are trying to reach. We cannot extend God’s love that we have not received ourselves. Today I read this verse in Jude on growing in love and it seems applicable to our conversation-

Jude 1:20-23 ESV
But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, [21] keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. [22] And have mercy on those who doubt; [23] save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

There is a lot in this discussion that is easier said then done. Can’t do it without the Lord’s help! Praise God that He provided a way!


@holly and @mary ,

I appreciated the thoughtful exchange on what “salt” in Col 4:5-6 means. I see the value of considering salt as rightly using the wisdom of God’s word according to need. I am excited to share a reflection on salt that I never noticed before!

I read today in Lev. 2:13 that all offerings to the Lord were to be offered with salt. The verse also tells us what “salt” signified in the OT law.

Salt was symbolic of our covenantal relationship with God.

So based on this OT significance, I think we can interpret Col 4:5-6 to mean we need to be in a continual relationship with the Lord as we interact with outsiders and depend on Him for wisdom on how to relate with different people. We have to be careful to not lean on our own strength.

This interpretation of salt also seems to fit with Mark 9:50.


Wow, that is neat. Viewing salt through that lens gives a whole new meaning to the verse in Colossians. Thank you for sharing that.