Hatred is the main cause of strife in the world today. It is a disease of the heart often associated with deep feelings of anger.
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” (Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela’s autobiography)
In our culture, we generally think of hate as lack of love. Jesus taught people they should not hate one another—we are to be gracious to everyone just as God is gracious towards us. A woman was surprised at church one day when another woman, who had often snubbed her, went out of her way to give her a big hug before the service. She wondered what had initiated her change of heart. She got her answer at the end of the service when the pastor instructed, Your assignment for next week is the same as last week. I want you to go out there and love somebody you just can’t stand (adapted from Reader’s Digest, 4/02, p. 48).
If loving others were only as easy as giving a hug to someone you don’t like, we all could excel in love. Just hug them and move on! But, love is a bit more difficult than that! It requires continual effort, because at the heart of loving others is putting the other person ahead of yourself, and that is always a huge battle.
Booker T. Washington, a black American who became famous in spite of prejudices and who was insulted many times because of the colour of his skin wrote, “I will not let any man reduce my soul to the level of hatred”. In his popular book None of These Diseases, Dr S.I. McMillen says that hatred, a powerful negative emotion, can make you sick and even cause death! Says McMillen:
The minute you begin hating someone, you become his slave. Hatred holds you captive and robs you of peace of mind, and your time is spent recounting unpleasant situations. Your enemy consumes your every waking moment and hatred holds your mind hostage.
Hate is a heart ailment forbidden by the Lord in the Old and New Testament:
- “You shall not hate your brother in your heart” (Leviticus 19:17 – ESV).
- ”You have heard that it was said ‘love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I tell you ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44 – NIV).
Hate is like acid. It can damage the vessel in which it is stored as well as destroy the object on which it is poured. It may have been a good thing back in the days of primitive people with enemies—but today it can be toxic and very harmful to ourselves. It can cause increased blood pressure, migraine headaches, and vulnerability to diseases like diabetes and cancer. Proverbs 10:12 says, “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs”.
What Is Your Approach to Dealing With Your Enemies?
A man who had reached his 100th birthday was being interviewed by a reporter:
- “What are you most proud of?” the reporter asked.
- “Well, ” said the man, “I don’t have an enemy in the world.”
- “What a beautiful thought! How inspirational!” said the reporter.
- “Yep,” added the man, “I outlived every last one of them.”
Is that your approach to dealing with your enemies? Is it just to avoid and ignore them, hoping that you outlive and outlast them? Maybe you secretly hope and plan and pray for bad things to happen to them. Maybe you hate them.
There is an old story of a man who lived in the city of Alexandria, Egypt, in the early days of Christianity. The man was a devout believer. One day he was being tormented by a group of young people who were mocking him and making fun of his religion. In their scorn they hurled this question at him: What miracles has your Christ shown? This is what the man said quietly: He has wrought this miracle, that I should endure the insult and injury which you heap on me without losing my tranquility of mind.
That is what we all want, is it not? To be able to rid ourselves of the resentments which disturb our tranquility of mind. To that end, I bid you: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who treat you spitefully. Jesus lived and walked among people who hated him. They were out to kill him. He had meals with them, and he wasn’t afraid of them.
Hatred and fear often go together. I was reading of a Christian man who said he despised his mother for years. She loved his older brother more than him. He knew he needed to forgive her. It was very difficult, but he tried with God’s help. The Bible says in 1 John 2:9 (NET): “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness”.
The often used phrase forgive and forget makes sense in overcoming feelings of personal hatred. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely hatred will ever be eradicated from this world. But we must let go of the feelings, for our own sake. Why let someone you despise live rent-free inside your head?
Let Jesus deal with your feelings of hatred. He can help because he said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free”—and that includes the prison of hatred.