Love CAN conquer hate
I hate it! I must have used the word ‘hate’ literally tens of thousands of times in my life. Hating anything from food that didn’t agree with me to people who didn’t agree with me. The word has flowed freely from my lips without much thought or bother. But somehow now that seems wrong. I look back on my life and see that maybe I resembled that word when I used it. There are quite a few different incidents that come to mind but one stands out and is I think typical to how hate and hatred can rule who we are.
Back in the mid 1980’s my life had begun to unravel in ways I could have never imagined. Recently divorced from my first wife. Our relationship had settled into bitter contention. My son was stuck in the middle of this and was suffering the consequences of such a separation. On top of that I had lost control of my addictions which had been in check, more or less, for years. Now there seemed no reason to not indulge. And as I indulged, for the first time in my life hate and hatred became part and parcel of who I was. It was at this time that I met Tom. There was nothing unusual how we met, both of us frequented a local watering hole, our neighborhood bar. We had a few things in common, drinking being one of them. But mostly we were diametric opposites. And as such we argued about everything. Politics, sports and even religion. You see Tom was an evangelical preacher. Some nights he would pick me out of the crowd and sit next to me, drunk as a skunk and talk about Jesus. At that time, I had no use for Christians, especially what I saw as hypocritical ones who preached out of one side of their mouths while sucking up the booze with the other. But if they left me alone I did the same, Tom could not. And it all came to a head one night when I was already in a bad mood. Tom picked this night to preach me a sermon about the Prodigal Son.
I am sure most of you know the story from the gospel of Luke. A young man demands his inheritance from his father then goes about blowing it all on wine, women and song, as they say. Soon broke and starving he returns home to seek his father’s forgiveness and work as a servant. The father not only forgives but gives the right to be a son back to him. I love this story now, but back then it was the last thing I wanted to hear. And that night as Tom preached a deep hate arose in me and I punched him. Pushing through the crowd, I could hear him behind me shouting, “I forgive you, son! I forgive you!” There was no such emotion or feeling in my heart just blackness and hate. And from what happened that night I spread my hatred to every Christian I encountered. And it lasted for years.
One incident during a black time in my life led me to hate a whole group of people just because of one man that I had judged to be a hypocrite. And over the years many people who worked for me or around me paid the price of my hatred. Firing some, abusing others so badly they would quit, not wanting to listen to my foul epitaphs and blasphemies. All this begs the question, how did I get here? How did I get past my hatred and become one with those I had hated?
I would like to say it was an instantaneous miracle, but it was not. It was something much better. Many who have read this blog know that I originally began to read the Bible to keep peace in my household, but I never had any intentions of becoming a ‘Christian’. So, for almost two years I listened to or read God’s Word and without me really knowing it, there was a softening of my heart. I would read verses like, “Above all, love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) or “Hate stirs up trouble, but love forgives all offenses.” (Proverbs 10:12) And I wanted it to be true. But I still had a problem, all Christians were a bunch of hypocrites, weren’t they? And now my wife wanted me to go to a church and be among them. Yikes! I was sure this was going to be the end of my ‘Christian experience’. But I was wrong.
In late 2010 I walked through the doors of the Grants Pass, Oregon Seventh Day Adventist Church and something amazing happened. Every person I met was down to earth and loving. There were no ‘Tom’s’ just a bunch of regular folks that loved Jesus. I must admit for the first couple of times it threw me into turmoil. I had hated these people for years and now I could not see why. Slowly I began to see that hate is just a lack of understanding and a whole lot of fear. I began to understand and want to exhibit what Jesus said, “But to you who are listening I say, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28) It takes His love through others and me also, giving it on to others I might struggle to like let alone love. But love CAN conquer hate.
I have never forgotten that lesson. When I look around at the deep hatreds which have developed because of opinions and rash judgement of each other, I just want to share what I have been blessed to see. My prayer is that someone who is hanging on to hatred today will read this and know we have a God who is love and a Savior who died for all, even that person you want to hate on today. Let it go and feel His love wash over you. You will be amazed at the joy it will bring!