I use the word "hate" a lot. Not as much as "love," but I still use it. And I think that people around me understand when I am using it as hyperbole, or joking around. Some things I claim to hate:
- Most current country music
- Going to work some days
- My laptop, when it is being a jerk
- James Franco and Ben Affleck
I don't think that people take me seriously when I talk about hating things, because I'm usually making a joke out of it. And there are some things or people that I genuinely and sincerely dislike (James Franco makes my skin crawl.) But hate? Hate is a heavy word. I think that hate leads to pain and violence and ugliness. Hate can lead people to do stupid things, particularly if they find other people who hate the same things. Hate led church-going, (usually) kindly southern people to victimize and beat and lynch people within the last century simply because of the color of their skin. Hate leads extremists in certain areas of the Middle East to bomb schools and throw acid on school girls. Hate is ugly. It is blind. It doesn't see reason. If hate leads someone to say or do or believe something not based in fact, hate prevents that person from seeing the error of their ways or admitting fault when confronted with the truth.
I've been seeing a lot of hate lately. It comes from spending too much time on the internet. People say things from behind the security of keyboards and electronic devices that they wouldn't have the courage to say in real life. I started really noticing this a few years ago when a former classmate of mine posted an incredibly tasteless and cruel joke about a troubled singer who died. The singer had struggled with addiction in the past, and many people made jokes about her passing (though she was clean at the time of her death.) Not all of those people claimed to be Christians, though. There was a huge disconnect between the claims that this young man made about himself- that he was a lover and follower of Christ- and the ugly words that poured forth from his social media accounts. When more than one person pointed out how inappropriate this was, particularly from someone who is so vocal about his alleged faith, he began saying incredibly insensitive and false things about people who suffer from addiction, essentially saying that "they deserve what they get" and that the planet may be better off if they are dead. At this point, I decided to speak up. I sent him a private message stating that another one of his classmates had recently lost his brother to an overdose, and pointed out that he would probably never say those things about or in front of this family. So why should he say it about someone else, someone he didn't know personally? He seemed genuinely saddened by the passing of a relative of someone he was close to at one time, but not long after, he continued posting the same kinds of ugliness. And then I deleted him as a friend.
Since then, I continue to be surrounded by more hate- from people I know and people I don't. In the past few weeks, I've seen comments from people saying that Dr. Brantly and others who participate in missions work "deserve what they get" for helping others overseas before helping their fellow Americans. Some even claimed that they hoped he would die. I've seen people wishing ill on the children who have been crossing over the Mexican border into the United States from Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras- innocent children who have only been sent by their parents in the hopes of escaping disease, starvation, child labor and exploitation, rape, gang violence and murder. I've seen people joke about gay members of the military getting shot in "friendly fire" incidents, assuming that the death of Don't Ask Don't Tell will lead to rampant unwanted advances and sexual assault. I've seen people joke about and claim to pray for the deaths of entire cultural groups and religions, rather than seeking lawful justice for individual perpetrators. I have seen people lash out at races and professions, painting everyone with the same brush, because of the events in Ferguson, Missouri- it seems that many of my acquaintances and other individuals on the internet have divided into two camps of rigid and unmoving stubbornness regarding the events in Missouri. That stubbornness is leading to some downright hateful talk, which alternates between "shoot all the cops, police are pigs" to "shoot all the suspects, if they were decent they wouldn't be suspects in the first place." There doesn't appear to be much room for middle ground or understanding. And then there's the hate directed toward individuals. Hate for the president. Hate for the former president. Hate for possible future presidents. Hate for a reporter. Hate for an actress. Hate for ex-husbands and wives, ex-girlfriends and boyfriends. Hate hate hate hate hate.
Having feeling is natural. Feeling angry, upset, frustrated, disgusted, annoyed, hurt, devastated, disappointed, sad, betrayed, fed-up, ticked off....all natural, and ok to experience- as long as we don't let them consume us. And that's where hate comes in. Hate comes from those emotions when we have given in to them, rather than giving them over to God. There is no way to reconcile harboring hate and calling yourself a Christian. Most of us have heard the Bible verse that says a servant cannot have two masters. In context, it refers to loving God and loving money. You can't do both because one drowns out the other, and it's not ok to let anything drown out your love for God. But the concept applies here, as well. We are specifically commanded not to hate. We are told to do the opposite. If you choose to hate, or work to convince yourself that "some hate" is acceptable to God, then you are saying you know best. You know better than Jesus. Your plan is better than his. You don't have to do everything he says. You don't have to follow his example.
And if that's the case, then I have a question: why bother calling yourself a Christian?
In no way am I claiming to be perfect here. I may have an excessive amount of empathy in my heart (enough that it causes me problems sometimes) but I still get angry. I get overly frustrated. Many would say that I hold a lot of grudges, because I remember so many slights and offenses and hurts. Part of that last bit is the way my brain is wired, but I know that I could work harder at learning to let go of those memories by going to counseling or working on other ways of conquering my obsessive-compulsive disorder (emphasis on "obsessive.") I don't have to work super hard to not hate, because I get sad when faced with the idea of hurting other people, or even thinking of hurting someone's feelings, but that doesn't mean that I don't struggle in other ways, too. I'm not here to judge, I'm just here to shed some light.
You can't hate and expect to not have consequences.
You can't hate and claim to love Jesus.
You can't hate and call yourself a Christian.
Not everyone is hateful all the time. Some people justify their hate by saying things that in some cases may contain a kernel of truth; for example, being upset with someone who has hurt us deeply can often lead to anger, then what we think is justifiable hatred. But again, we mustn't let our negative feelings turn into hate, which is diametrically opposed to the Gospel.
If someone points out to you, in the interest of accountability and genuine concern for your heart, that some of your speech or actions seem hateful, I would recommend taking a moment to consider their words before lashing out at them in defense of yourself. Sometimes, if we keep hate around long enough, we lose sight of the line between normal, human feelings, and the sin of hatred. One good litmus test to judge whether you are coming from a "good" place (heartbreak, normal human emotion, righteous indignation) or a "bad" place (hatred, vitriol, spite) is if you are talking about violence. Violence is always, always a red flag, whether you are serious or not. Jesus was- and is- the Prince of Peace. The only time he physically acted out was when he overturned tables in the temple, because the money changers and other greedy people were desecrating his Father's house. He never lashed out, kicked, hit, poked, prodded, or smote anyone. He didn't even really talk about it. And, interestingly enough, he didn't want anyone else doing it on his behalf, either. It seems trite to recite "vengeance is mine, says the Lord", but it's true. In the garden of Gethsemane, when the soldiers came to arrest him on trumped up charges, and he was betrayed by one of his closest friends, Jesus didn't even allow Peter to use the sword to defend him! So we really can't say that God would probably be fine with us meting out "justice" on his behalf. God asked, in very specific instances in the Old Testament, for very specific individuals to do this under very specific circumstances at very specific times. And then came Jesus. And Jesus told us not to worry about that.
He told us to turn the other cheek.
He told us to pray for our enemies, and explicitly said not to hate them.
He told us to give to people who treat us unfairly.
He told us to go above and beyond what is asked of us, rather than complaining about it or plotting our revenge.
We, as Christians, are to follow in the footsteps of Christ. We can open the Bible- a gift from God, filled with his direct words and those given to others by him- and read, over and over again, that hate is not what God desires for believers. We are to be peace-makers, not revenge-seekers. We are to feed our enemy when he is hungry and overcome evil with good, not repay evil with evil (or violence.) We are to tame our tongues and only use our voices for building up, not tearing down. We are to love everyone. That is how people will recognize that we know and love Jesus. So please, if you choose to hate, don't pretend that it's somehow OK with God. Don't do it while advertising your Christianity. Don't do it around people who know you go to church but don't know Jesus themselves.
I've made a new goal. I'm going to try to stop saying that I hate things (and people- you win this time, Franco.) I hope to at least drastically reduce the number of times I use the word. I hope you'll join me, too.