“When we see others as the enemy, we risk becoming what we hate. When we oppress others, we end up oppressing ourselves. All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity in others.” — Desmond Tutu
Since the dawn of the human era — when the first son born into this world murdered the second son born into this world — we have found hatred an easy weapon to pick up and brandish. We use it without a second thought and with far too much precision and skill.
But, did you know that our brains are neurologically wired for empathy? Do you realize that when we see another’s state of being, deep inside we automatically resonate with it or “get” it? Our souls are hardwired to empathize, but only as far as our beliefs will let us. When our personal values are not matched by another, our belief that we are right corrupts our natural desire to care.
“Hate one another as I have hated you…”
said Jesus never.
Hate is a very strong word. It encapsulates intense feelings and actions of dislike, resentment, hostility and so on. But what causes such depths of vitriol in our otherwise kind souls? What drives us to ostracize, bad-mouth or openly attack another human being?
Much of the time, hate seems to stem from a ridiculously pointless and irrelevant fact: we are different. And we cannot both be right.
“Hate those who are different to you…”
said Jesus never.
Time and again, a vicious family feud, an obscene cultural attack, or an outright shunning all stem from this basic truth. You are not like me. Therefore, I shall not like you.
Of course, some differences are exciting or inspiring or even celebratory. We take delight in who can be the most different and unbelievable and exceptional. But only if it makes us laugh or feel good or feel “Christian”.
Everyone is unique and special, but everyone should think and be like me.
The minute someone comes along whose “differentness” makes us feel confused or — God forbid — uncomfortable, we kick them out of the herd. Often rudely. Often publicly.
“Hate those who are hated by others…”
said Jesus never.
But the hating disease somehow intensifies when we find ourselves standing next to someone who feels the same way. Suddenly, our neighbour who, in the past, seemed obnoxious or unkind or just full of bull is now our hating ally against another. Now we have found someone else that we can hate in unison. Together. As a team.
Either you’re with me, or you’re against “us”.
Communal hatred breeds problems of its own (crowd brutality, group exclusion, even suicide), but the key point which we hang onto is that strength is found in numbers. It is no longer just one person standing alone and hating what is different. Now there is a whole team of qualified-to-be-judgmental sleuths, ready to sniff out anyone who is different to “us”, hold them up to the light, and then accept or reject them according to how well (or not) they slot into our carefully pre-fabricated mold of acceptableness.
Don’t believe me? Get on Facebook and watch how we band together to hate on Barack Obama or Donald Trump — depending on which “different” works for you.
We’re hating and fighting and tweeting as many upper-right crosses as we can, because your opinion is always wrong and my opinion is always right.
“Hate those who are not walking the same path…”
said Jesus never.
Here it comes. The worst result of hate which plays out over and over in churches and communities and sometimes even in our homes:
We’re all about love and forgiveness, but only after the dirty rotten sinner has realized their waywardness and run back to our caring circle of peace and love.
Perhaps we have forgotten our old buddy Jesus (remember Him?), who dined with the losers and chatted with the sinners and hung out on the fringes, while the “acceptable” members of society spoke out against such open-minded non-hating.
Why is it so hard for us to see the human behind the skin colour? The belief? The lifestyle?
It should bother us when a staunch church-goer refuses to sit next to a practicing drug addict. It should shock us when a community leader spurns his only child for not living up to his standards of life, the universe and everything. It should sadden us when a religious community cuts all ties to a member who dared to question their “tried and true”.
“Hate your family until they find the light…”
said Jesus never.
We should be weeping in agony over the shunnings and blackmailings and outbursts and ostracizations that occur in our towns and cities and home Bible study groups. Instead, we’re too busy checking our own back yards, making sure great aunty Jo is walking the straight and narrow line which we’ve drawn in our heads. And if not? Well, she can say goodbye to her place at the Thanksgiving table until she’s ready to comply again with our personal definition of “the way” or “the truth” or “the light”.
Sometimes hate doesn’t come across as vitriolic speech or violent actions or downright murder. Sometimes it drifts in, soft and subtle and sweet, and we wear it gently and hold it with humble pride and use it to keep at a distance anyone who is too different or downtrodden.
Apparently, there is a Great Golden Rule of Life. It is written down in many religions, quoted by many parents, even preached in school playgrounds as, well, the “golden rule”. And it goes like this:
“Do to others as you would have them do unto you.” (Jesus Christ. Direct quote. Check out Matthew chapter 7, verse 12.)
Feel like being hated on? Keen to be judged by your family and friends? Just asking to be kicked out of society and community life? Didn’t think so…
If there’s one thing Jesus taught us about love and hate, it’s that He was only ever about the first, even if all we deserve is the latter.
Could it really be this simple? Could being a believer, a person of faith, even just a decent human being, come down to nothing more than choosing love over hate?
I’d like to think so. I’d like to believe so. In fact, I’d like to live so. And maybe you would too.
If we’re honest, this is just what Jesus did do. And we should want nothing less than to make like a real follower of Christ and do just that — follow Him.
Forgive those who hurt you. Love those who are different to you. Accept those who walk a path not of your choosing. Love against the flow. Bless despite the darkness.
And hate like Jesus: never.
Emma is an Italian-South African with a New Zealand passport, living in Papua New Guinea. As well as years of running a puppet ministry and directing student choirs, she has served with Mission Aviation Fellowship since 2007, currently based in PNG. Emma's deep joy is in writing, music, playing with her ginger cats and finding God in unexpected places.
Read Emma's creative expressions at www.girlkaleidoscope.wordpress.com or follow her PNG adventures at www.pngponderings.wordpress.com
Emma McGeorge’s previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/emma-mcgeorge.html