Hate is easy. It takes little to kindle and it feeds upon itself as it grows in conviction. Hate feels good and right. No one hates without feeling justified or allowed or harmed in some way. The truthfulness of hate’s foundation is not essential for its flame; just the feeling of being wronged or righting a wrong is enough. Looking around, it seems that the primary motivators for world-shaping change are fear and hatred. Perhaps we’re addicted to it.
In writing a letter of encouragement, the Apostle John said, “The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (1 John 2:9–11, NASB95) However, the context is not the world-at-large but to those who call on the name of Christ. The family of believers; the church.
May I say something harsh? We, as Christ-followers, will not effectively quench the hatred in the world until we extinguish our hatred towards one another in Christ. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35, NASB95) But it is not easy to extinguish the flame of hatred and division – and we’re the ones that know the love of Jesus.
I’ve observed two methods to deal with hatred in the family of believers—one false, one true. The false way is to create uniformity of thought, which narrows the family to only those who believe and act alike. There is a measure of peace in uniformity, but it is a false peace that hates all who do not belong. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day tried that solution. Jesus called them, “blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:24, NASB95)
The true way recognizes, values, and loves one another by acknowledging our differences. God created each one of us unique in some way. Some of us are more empathetic to the sufferings of others, and some are more tuned to the over-arching narrative of God’s mission. Both are right and are coming at challenges from different, but God designed perspectives. We need one another. To paraphrase Paul in 1 Corinthians 12, If everyone is an ear, how in the world can we see anything?
Here’s the hard part. Folks that are ears want everyone to be ears. And those that are feet expect everyone to be feet. Those with a passion for evangelism want everyone to be evangelist, while those with a heart of compassion expect everyone to feel as they do. By loving and accepting one another and the uniqueness God has created in each other, we truly become the body of Christ.
The church I am a part of strives after this kind of diversity. We call it “big tent.” This is not some kind of cheap grace but instead recognizes that Jesus is the center pole, and we are focused on Him instead of our differences. It’s not easy, and the edges of the big tent are challenged at times.
So, how do we focus more on loving our weird wrong-headed (in our opinion) brother or sister in Christ instead of hating them? Forgiveness plays a huge role. So does patience as we extend to them the same grace we expect for ourselves. Valuing one another is vital since it allows us to disagree without division. Lastly, being honestly humble with ourselves and others. None of us are perfect, we all have edges that rub folks the wrong way, and we are all growing in Christ. Part of humility is recognizing that we can be wrong, and others can be right. Or maybe we’re both right and just coming at things from different angles. And there’s always the possibility that we’re both missing the boat of rightness.
Before we can extinguish the wildfires of hatred in the world, believers in Christ must learn to love one another despite our differences. John is very blunt. If we don’t love one another, then the light is not abiding in us, and we are stumbling about in the darkness.