Overcoming Hatred

We are fast approaching the holiday season, a time when we see a lot being said about love, especially in Christian circles. But I have been thinking a great deal about the idea of hatred in our culture, primarily because it is all over the news. It lies just beneath the surface of a culture filled with violence, shootings, anger, criticism, disapproval, blame and denigration. It appears that hatred has overcome the rational thinking of typically rational human beings. What is it, and why is it such a strong motivator?

At its very base, hatred is opposition, enmity, “to dislike intensely,” to “loath, detest, despise.” It evokes very strong emotions, and logic is forgotten. On the one hand, it can be a natural human reaction to evil in the world, and to bad things that happen over which we have no control: we “hate” disease, war, assault, malice, cruelty. Over and over again, the Bible teaches that human beings are to “hate the evil and love the good” (i.e., Ps 45:7; 97:10; Amos 5:15; Mic 3:2). God hates it when we worship someone or something else and put idols above him (Dt 16:22). Appropriately, especially in our culture today, God hates lies and injustice. He says, “Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against each other, and do not swear falsely. I hate all of this” (Zec 8:16-17).

On the other hand, history has proven that hatred has been the underlying cause of human viciousness, torture, envy, jealousy, wars and assassinations – the worst of the worse. It ruled the Roman emperors in the first century, and it ruled people like Hitler and Stalin in more recent history. There’s plenty of hatred in the Old Testament, in the ancient world, so it is nothing new among “civilized” people. There are so many examples, beginning with the jealousy of Cain, who murdered his brother Abel. Ultimately, in every situation, hatred is destructive, not instructive; it is demeaning, not edifying. It causes division, not unity, even among (or especially among) those who are connected by familial blood. Unity will never be achieved when humanity is ruled by hatred. Society will never be “great” when hatred rules in the hearts of people and in their leaders.

In the NT, Jesus continues the same line of thought, but takes it one step further. He taught us that, “You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:43; Lk 6:27). Furthermore, those who are followers of Christ should expect other people to hate them: “You will be hated by everyone because of me….” (Mt 10:22; 24:9; Lk 21:17).  In the Fourth Gospel, Jesus said, “if the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (Jn 15:18,19). And, “whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar” (1 Jn 4:20-21). What did Jesus teach us about the darkness of hatred? What did he do when he was in the grasp of injustice and in the hands of hateful, confrontational people? The NT teaches us one eternal principal – that the only thing strong enough to overcome hatred is love.

On a smaller scale, hatred motivates slander, lies, schemes, degradation and retaliation. It can reign in the hearts of people who are, on the outside, intelligent, well-to-do, comfortable and “model” citizens. It can take the form of an unkind word, “name-calling,” selfish determination, deliberate lies, constant criticism, or a scheme to demean another person for self-aggrandizement. We must combat growing, searing hatred with godly love, which is treating all humanity with the dignity and respect we all deserve. It is an attitude and a grace that edifies and forgives, that builds people up instead of tearing them down. It was exemplified by Jesus who always placed other people above himself. As we all seek that “heavenly peace” this year, let us regard “peace” as the absence of hatred….and it begins with each one of us.


Author: Judy

Christian educator, writer, specializing in the New Testament

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