What Jesus Said About . . . Hate

May 20, 2012

If we were to ask you to name the opposite of a particular
word it would be easy, right?  Up,
down.  Right, left or right, wrong.  In, out. 
Black, white.  Happy, sad.  What about love?  You are thinking that would be easy, hate?  Maybe anger?   American psychologist, Rollo May stated “Hate is
not the opposite of love; apathy is.” 
Perhaps, but most of us don’t struggle with apathy.  But if I was a betting man I’d be willing to
wager that there are folks here today who struggle with hatred and anger.  You only have to turn on the news to discover
that we live in an angry world, a world that is more often than not defined by
hatred rather than by love.
Riots, wars and persecution are more often the fruit of
anger rather than apathy.  The news talks
about hate crimes or sometimes you’ll hear that someone has been accused of
committing a crime of passion, but that passion is the passion of anger.
Two weeks ago I spoke about how carelessly we use the word
love, we love this and we love that.  But
obviously there are different degrees of love because we don’t love our
children in the same way that we love our favorite TV show, we don’t love our
spouse like we love pizza.  Or at least
I’d hope not. 
And we carelessly use the word hate in much the same way, I
hate brussel sprouts, I hate “America’s Funniest Home Videos”, seriously I find
it disturbing that people enjoy watching the misfortunes of others, I hate rap
music, I hate anchovies on my pizza, I hate when you do that.  And some people might add, I hate that person.  On Monday morning after I started work on
this message I came out of Tims and someone had snugged up close to my Smart
Car, come on it only takes a half a parking spot people, and my first response
was “I hate when people do that.”  But do
I really?  Sure it bugs me, but does it
make me wish ill on the person who did it? 
And for many people hate and anger are intertwined.  And they excuse it.  “That’s just the way I am.  I’ve always been angry, it’s the way I was
raised, my parents were angry people.” 
Or they blame other people, “I wouldn’t get angry if they didn’t act
that way.”  “They deserve my
hatred.”  “They hate me.” 
But while it may be true that you’ve always been an angry
person you don’t have to remain an angry person.  It may be true that you were brought up in an
angry household that doesn’t mean you need to continue the cycle.  Do you want your children to be angry hateful
people?  Do you want them to use the same
excuse that you use?  “My father, or my
mother was an angry person, they taught me to hate.” 
You know my philosophy of choices.  We are what we choose to be.  We do what we choose to do.  And we are a product of our choices.  We are where are today as a result of choices
we made yesterday. 
And some people find that a discouraging thought, but it is
really liberating because when we accept that we are where we are today as a
result of choices we made yesterday then we can determine where we will be
tomorrow by the choices we make today. 
Emotions are a part of who we are, two weeks ago I spoke
about how we were created as emotional beings. 
But listen up we will either control our emotions or they will control
us.  And there is no place that is truer
than when it comes to our anger and our hatred. 
Today you will have the opportunity to choose to not be angry any
more.  Because as pithy and clichéique as
it might be:  Today truly is the first
day of the rest of your life.  
And this is important.  Listen to Jesus’ warning in Matthew 5:22 But I say, if you are even
angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot,
you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone,
you are in danger of the fires of hell. Wow.  Let’s read that again.  Matthew 5:22 But I say, if you are even
angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot,
you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone,
you are in danger of the fires of hell.
It was Martin Luther King Jr. who
said “Hatred
paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it.
Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”
In the book of Luke Jesus not
only told us not to hate, but he told us to turn that hate around.  Listen to his words in Luke 6:27 “But to you who are willing
to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you.” And
then he goes on to the entire discourse if someone strikes you, turn the other
cheek.  If someone asks for your coat
give them your shirt as well.  If a
person demands that you go a mile, then go two. 
 Have you ever noticed how the
words of Jesus have become part of our everyday language?  Turn the other cheek.  He would give you the shirt right off his
back.  He’s always willing to go the
second mile.
Hate and anger are dangerous emotions.  They alienate people, they hurt people and
when you hate, when you get angry it reduces you.  It makes you less of a person and it negates
the power of Christ in your life.  (marvin
the martin video)  Anger is really only
funny in cartoons, in real life it is scary it’s frustrating and it is
demeaning.
Why do we hate?  If you were to ask someone why they hate
another person you would probably get as many different answers as there were
people you asked.  But when it is boiled
down to the core people all tend to hate for the same reasons.  They might dress it up with other words and
reasons but ultimately you can probably find the root here. 
Some people hate
because they have been hurt.
  They
feel that they are responding in kind to the way they have been treated. At
some point in their life they feel that they have been wronged.  And in many cases they have been.  Life and people can be cruel.  And so people respond with hate and with
anger.  Perhaps it was a physical hurt,
someone bigger and more powerful than you physically hurt you.  Or worse maybe it was someone you trusted, a
parent, a sibling, a spouse a neighbour. 
You would never have expected it of them and they hurt you and took
advantage of you, maybe took your innocence.  
Or perhaps it was an emotional hurt, you believed them and
they lied to you, you trusted them and they betrayed you.  Or maybe they hurt you financially, they
stole from you took your money or took your stuff.  But whatever it was and however it happened
they hurt you.
And so you hate them. 
And you would hurt them back if you could, but you can’t.  Either because you are incapable of it, or
simply because you know that society frowns on that type of thing.  And so you seethe in anger and marinade in hate. 
And it was wrong, there was no reason for them to hurt you,
you weren’t to blame, no matter what they say. 
But understand this; as long as you hang onto that hate they will
continue to hurt you.  It will consume
your days and it will steal your nights. 
 They will have reduced you to
their level as you relive the hurt and as you think of ways you can hurt them
back. 
It was Booker T. Washington who wrote “I will not
permit any man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.” 
So what is the solution? 
Most of us know the Lord’s prayer, if only in passing, many of us could
recite by rote, and because of that we don’t really hear the words we say.  But when Jesus told the apostles “This is how
you should pray”  it was new and fresh
and revolutionary.  And so they didn’t
just skim over the words, they thought about them and so when they heard Jesus’
words in Matthew 6:12 “Forgive us our sins, as we have
forgiven those who sin against us.”  They
were able to form in their minds a mental picture of who it was that they
needed to forgive and why they needed to forgive and it wasn’t easy.  I’m sure it were these words that Peter was
thinking about when he came to Jesus in Matthew 18:21
Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who
sins against me? Seven times?”
 What makes me think
that as Jesus had been teaching Peter had been stewing.  Thinking about something someone had said
about him or did to him, perhaps more than once.  Maybe five time or six times and he was getting
tired of turning the other cheek.  And to
be truthful if this was more than a hypothetical situation and Peter had
already forgiven the person multiple times he was a better person than most of
us.  But he wasn’t ready for Jesus’
answer Matthew 18:22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus
replied, “but seventy times seven!     
Jesus was telling Peter the same thing that Author Isabelle
Holland reminds us of today  “As long as
you don’t forgive, who and whatever it is will occupy a rent-free space in your
mind.”
And you may be thinking, but how can I trust them
again?  This isn’t about trust it is
about forgiveness.  And those are two different
issues.  Forgiveness is about the past,
trust is about the future. Sometimes we hear people say “you haven’t forgiven
if you haven’t forgotten.”  That isn’t
true. 
When we have been hurt by someone, emotionally, physically,
spiritually it hurts and will often leave a scar.  With forgiveness the hurt will go away but
often times the scar will remain.  If
someone takes advantage of me in a business deal, I can forgive them but I
would be silly if I allowed them to do it again.  Goes back to “Fool me once shame on you, fool
me twice shame on me.”
And if they broke the law they need to be accountable to the
law even if you forgive them, you can forgive them for what they did to you but
it is not in your power to absolve them of criminal behaviour.
And often it is the person who did the hurting who equates
forgiveness with forgetfulness.  The
person who breaks their wedding vows is hurt because their spouse doesn’t trust
them.  Duh.  The abusive parent can’t understand why their
relationship with their kid can’t be the same as other parents and kids have, even
after they’ve been forgiven.  Because the
scars are still there. 
You don’t forgive for them, you forgive for yourself, you
forgive to free yourself from the chains of the past and the prison of
hatred.  They may have stolen your past
don’t let them steal your future as well. 
And don’t forget, forgiveness is not a feeling it is an
action. 
Another reason people hate and get angry is Because Of Envy.  We hate people because they have what we
don’t and that makes us angry.  The 99%
weren’t angry because they have so little, they still have more than the
majority of the world.  No they were
angry because the 1% have so much more than they have.  With Nova Scotia Power seeking another price
increase the anger that comes out isn’t whether or not the increase is
justified it seems to be directed at the fact that Rob Bennett, the President
of Nova Scotia Power will make $1.1 million this year.    And you understand that if Rob Bennett
didn’t take a nickel of salary this year it would reduce your power bill by
less than a penny a day.  Thirty cents a
month.  But I understand your
frustration.  To think that the executive
who runs the utility that puts power in every one of our homes, every day, who
employs thousands of people and is responsible to keep the entire grid on track
is paid the same as a 24 year old hockey player from Hammond Plains is paid to
play a game.  Inconceivable. 
And so people hate those who are more successful than they
are, and hate those who have more money than they do.  Why do so many people around the world hate
the United States?  Because Americans have
so much more than they do.  They are
envious. 
It was Jerry Lewis who said “People hate me because I am a
multifaceted, talented, wealthy, internationally famous genius.”   And probably because he’s so
humble. 
We think of envy as being kind of harmless but Jesus lists
envy along with theft, adultery and murder. 
In Galatians when Paul lists the acts of the sinful nature envy is there
along with idolatry, drunkenness, and selfish ambition.    In
his letter to the Romans Paul writes of every kind of wickedness and there is
envy on the list.    We mentioned earlier
that we don’t forgive for the benefit of those we are forgiving, in most cases
they couldn’t give a rip.  We forgive for
us.
In the same way most of those we envy it doesn’t bother
them.   Rob Bennett 
doesn’t lose sleep knowing that people envy his salary.  It was Herodutus, the Greek historian who said “How much
better a thing it is to be envied than to be pitied.”
The reason the Ten Commandments warns us to not covet, or
envy, the reason Jesus calls it sin, the reason Paul refers to it as wickedness
is not because of the damage it does to those we envy, but because of the
damage it does to us. 
It was Confucius who said “A person is born with feelings of
envy and hate. If he gives way to them, they will lead him to violence and
crime.”
And so a step toward not hating is not envying.  And the way to not envy is by learning to be
content and that comes when we learn to be thankful for what we have.  The old hymn says “Count your blessings, name
them one by one, Count your many blessings see what God has done.” 
The third reason people hate is Because of Ignorance  People
hate other people because they don’t know better.  Because they have allowed themselves to be
swayed by the thoughts and hatred of others. 
And this is the cause of most of the hatred in the world.  It is so easy to hate people we don’t know.  The reason that the German people could be complicit
in the death of six million Jews in the holocaust was they had been told they
should hate them, and so they did.  The
reason for racism is that people are ignorant about other people and believe
what they are told. And so for far too many years African Americans weren’t
allowed in the same schools, restaurants, rest rooms and churches as their
white counterparts.  Why?  Because of ignorance.   And so the militant factions of Islam can raise
up suicide bombers because they convince them that those they are attacking
need to be killed and they shape ignorance into hatred.
And the antidote to ignorance
is truth.  As Christ Followers Jesus
promised us in John 8:32 “You will know the truth, and the
truth will set you free.”  There
is no good reason to hate someone.  If
you must hate then hate injustice, hate racism, and hate poverty. 
In our ignorance we hate those
who are different then we are and yet Paul reminds the early Christ Followers
in  Galatians 3:28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free,
male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Let’s go back to where we began
Matthew
5:43-44
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate
your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!
Don’t waste another day or
another ounce of energy on anger and hatred. 
You can’t change the past but your choices today will and can change
your tomorrow.  If you have anger issues,
if you have problems with hate then I want to pray for you right now.  And I want you to know that while you might
not be able to control those emotions by yourself you can control them with
God’s help.  Because anger and hatred are
not habits, they are not personality traits they are sin.