Naturally Born Haters

Whether we admit it or not, one experience that is common to all humanity is that we identify people who are our enemies, and then whenever possible, we hate them as much as we can.

It's as if we are naturally born haters.

Recent news headlines (which seem abundant lately) illustrate this point quite well:

  • Riots and looting have overwhelmed the small town of Ferguson, MO, after a white police officer there shot and killed an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown.
  • ISIS has been establishing an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria, persecuting Christians, and beheading small children.
  • Israel and Hamas/Gaza have been lobbing missiles back and forth at one another.
  • Russia and Ukraine have been under a tense stand-off, with possible war looming.
  • A flood of immigrant children have been dropped off at our nation's border, and are overwhelming the system in place, leaving politicians sharply divided on how to solve the problem.
  • Big banks have been paying out multi-billion dollar settlements for lawsuits over bad lending practices that helped create the last mortgage crisis.

A lot of these headlines stir up deep feelings within all of us. We often end up identifying with a particular person or issue in a story, and choose sides in the process. Our passions become increasingly inflamed as we learn more and more about injustices going on all around us.  We dig our heels in deep in support of our cause, and no amount of facts spoken to the contrary will ever convince us we are in the wrong.

Such a phenomenon isn't limited to global geo-political issues either. We see such strife in our everyday lives as well.

Managers and their employees square off against one another. Family drama creates factions that no longer speak to one another. Romantic relationships are soured. Neighbors feud. And the things that make for an episode of Jerry Springer abound.

It's as if we are naturally born haters.

At the end of the day, so many things boil down to "US" vs. "THEM."

Distrust abounds.  Dirty glances are exchanged.  Crossed words are spoken in haste.  People are vilified and demonized.  We speak in absolute terms about "ALWAYS" and "NEVER."  Fear and panic flood our minds.  Battle lines are drawn in the sand.  War erupts.

Such seems to be an endless cycle we simply cannot seem to escape from. And as much as we say we hate the cycle of violence that unfolds, at the same time we find it impossible to turn away from. It's as if we secretly crave it.

Instead of looking for reasons not to go to war, we look for reasons to "justify" war, and write long philosophical books on the subject. And soon, what was once only supposed to be done under exceptional circumstances becomes a way of life.

As soon as any sort of conflict raises its ugly head, somebody on TV or Facebook starts a campaign in the name of taking swift and decisive action against somebody tens of thousands of miles away.

It's as if we are naturally born haters.

No wonder Jesus had to command us to to "Love your enemies." (Matthew 5:44) He had to command it, for loving your enemy is not a naturally occurring thought or desire.  It is counter intuitive to our first impulse, yet in the command we find that which is God's very heart.

It's hard enough to like somebody you have a hard time getting along with, let alone loving them. But loving your enemy is another matter altogether.  Your enemy, after all, is not only somebody who you find it hard to get along with, but is somebody who feels hatred for you.  They hope for bad things to happen to you, celebrate when they do, and as much as possible, actively campaign against you, even to the point of taking your life.

Yet, these very enemies are the people that Jesus commands us to love.  

Love your enemies, Jesus said...

...even the young black man in the ghetto who hates you because you are white.
...even the trigger happy police officers who abuse their authority and oppress minorities.
...even the Islamic radicals who fly airplanes into towers and behead people on YouTube.
...even the Jewish solder who randomly kills unarmed civilians in Gaza.
...even the parents who abused you, and played favorites.
...even the ex-husband who cheated on you, and spreads lies about you.
...even the boss at work who writes you up to save his own tail.
...even the President who won the election, even though you voted against him.
...even the man who breaks into your house at night to rob you.

We need to get out of the business of hating people who are our enemies, and fighting against them.  We need to get out of the business of merely loving the people that love us back.  The most vile and godless men are capable of the same.  We need to think new thoughts, and think about the challenge of loving our enemies.

Of course, such a thing puts us in a tremendously vulnerable position.  Loving your enemies opens yourself to a lot of risk.  These same people may take advantage of you.  They may even harm you and your loved ones.  They may shoot you dead in the street.  They may bomb you into oblivion.  They may treat you even as they treated Jesus.

But we as the people of God can afford to take such risks.  Kill us though they may, we know that our lives are ultimately in the hands of God, and we know that even though we die, yet shall we live.  And we take the risk of loving those who hate us, with the hopes that through our demonstration of God's love for them through us, that they might be transformed from a people who are naturally born to hate, to a people who now even love their enemies.

Such is nothing short of a miracle.

And such is a greater cause to rally behind than any "justice" we may attempt to uphold and execute against those who wrong us and those whom we naturally love.  

Love your enemies.  It may not come to you naturally.  But it's not supposed to come to you naturally in the first place.

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