Ten years ago, I made a conscious decision to dislike people different from me.
I’d just moved to a new city where I experienced blatant prejudice on a scale I’d not experienced before. I grew tired of visiting places where not even the greeters at the front door acknowledged me. Once inside, people either stared right through me or stared me down.
Then one evening as I strolled through my neighborhood, a pick-up truck pulled up next to me, someone inside shot a gun off in the air and several people hurled profanities at me before screeching off into the darkness of the sunset.
As I walked home, wiping tears and trying to process what happened and why, I made a simple resolve in my heart: I’m done trying to love these people any more. With all the reasoning of a 5-year-old in a schoolyard scuffle I determined, If they don’t like me, I won’t like them either.
Once home, I called my mom, told her what happened and shared my decision to stop caring about these people who had hurt me. Honestly it was more than just not caring. I could feel hate growing deep in my heart.
“How are you going to do that?” she asked, meaning how would I justify my decision to hate as a follower of Christ.
“I’m glad you’re OK,” she said. I could tell she was holding back tears for my sake. “But I can’t support your decision. You can either continue to be a Christian, to love God and all those He created, or you can decide to go against God and despise His creation … but not both. So which will you choose?”
I didn’t say anything about going against God, I thought, defending my position.
But just as quickly as the thought crossed my mind so did the words of a verse I learned as a child in Sunday School: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God created he them; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27).
Up until that point, I’d mostly heard this verse used to describe the sanctity of human life. But now, I was willing to trade this Truth that deemed all human life worthy for the lie that their behavior makes them worthless.
The harsh words of my heart were in stark contrast to the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:44: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (KJV).
In what seemed like less than a nanosecond, the same day I decided to hate others turned into the day I decided never to give my heart over to hatred.
That’s a hard word for me to even type. But, in order to make a conscious decision about why I would always work to steer my heart away from that word I had to look at that word for all that it was.
Hate carries a false arrogance that shouts:
“I’m better than you.”
“I deserve better than you.”
“I wish you would go away.”
At the extreme opposite end of the spectrum, the core of the Christian heart is love. It walks with a humbleness toward others — a gentle knowing that we’re all the same at the foot of the cross of Jesus. This kind of love says:
“I’m no better than you.”
“All I have I owe to Jesus.”
“I’m glad you’re here.”
This kind of heart honors God as Creator of all.
Father God, forgive me for losing sight of the Truth that You created all people in Your image. By Your grace, help me to see hatred — whether initiated or returned — as a tool Satan uses to keep me from experiencing and sharing the richness of Your love. Dear Lord, even when I don’t like the hurtful things others do, help me love the way You love them, extending the same kindness, mercy and grace I have received from You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.