Here’s a picture for you, hate as a knife; hate as a gun; hate as a club; hate as a poison dart. They are all tools that a person can use to unleash a violence on someone else and it does damage, sometimes permanent. Hate is potent. Who am I kidding? It’s always within my grasp.
I John 3:15
Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
Over the years, I have engaged many people about my faith. And, in particular, my desperate need for forgiveness, for my own sins as well as a willingness to forgive others. So often, their comeback to me is that they haven’t done anything so bad: they haven’t murdered anyone or stolen anything or taken lethal drugs. They speak as though there is such a thing as an “ordinary” life of niceness, their “good person” syndrome, a whitewash.
But I say they have murdered, at one time or another, with hate. And, unfortunately, in the paradoxical world of God, that hate might have appeared justified, the object being a mean, cruel, even evil-seeming person, or an adulterer, a child abuser, a wife beater, a liar, a betrayer. Do any of these descriptions make your blood boil?
That’s different, you say. They deserve to be hated; they broke the laws of humankind. They are “Cain: who slew Abel” [Genesis 4]. Instead of casting them out of the garden, you cast them out of your life. It’s a way to soften the feelings, to put blanks in the pistol, to dull the edge of hate.
There were years I hated my own mother for the emotional damages she brought into my life. There were times I hated my brother out of sheer jealousy for his abilities, for his “position” in our family, for his successes that perpetually outshone my own. There were intervals I hated my husbands (in certain seasons of our shared lives), for their disdain of me as a woman, for their disregard, for their isolations. There were girls I hated who were prettier than me, smarter than me, “in” while I was “out,” or acknowledged while I was invisible. There were lovers who bruised my heart and cast me aside. There were neighbors who crossed the line of decency. There were . . . there are . . . enemies of the state, terrorists, and many, many, unnamed villains.
Oh yes, plenty of people to hate. And yet, none of my hate effective in relieving my own soul, heart or mind of injury. What has been done to me, I cannot re-write, I cannot change my past with the weapons of hate, nor can I pay them forward. Hate perpetuates hate. It feeds upon itself.
Back to the paradox: there is a reason that Jesus taught us to love our enemies [Matthew 12:44]. I think we have mistakenly relegated this command to an ideal, something nice to work toward. But I have come to believe it’s a weapon in its own right, not just as powerful as hate, but more powerful. It’s a neutralizer, a transformer. If hate is a weapon, love is a bomb that changes the landscape completely.
It’s not a suggestion: it’s a guarantee.