Where there is hatred, let me sow love…
–Prayer of St. Francis
Hatred is an insidious thing. It blinds us to truth; it blinds us to love; and it blinds us to God. Hatred springs from fear, from self-righteousness and from ignorance. It strips us of our reason, clouds our intellect, warps our mind to perceive that which is evil as good and demonizes the object of its wrath to justify itself. Hatred is particularly pernicious when it is justified in God’s name.
God is love (1 John 4:8) and love is antithetical to hatred. The opposite of hatred is not only love, but also forgiveness. Anger is a feeling — we all feel anger. Hatred and forgiveness are decisions we make as the result of feeling anger. As followers of Jesus, we have only one possible response to anger … love and forgiveness. “Whoever hates his brother is in darkness; he walks in darkness and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:11).
Those blinded by hatred are blind to truth; they are like those described by the Prophet Jeremiah as “foolish and senseless people, who have eyes and do not see, who have ears and do not hear”(Jer: 5:21). The popular saying “don’t get mad, get even” is totally contrary to the teachings of Jesus, who taught in the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well” (Matt. 5:38,39).
Forgiveness and love are of God. Jesus, the Great Reconciler, as he hung on the cross, uttered among his last words, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do”(Luke 23:34), and in imitation of Jesus, Stephen cried out as he was being stoned to death, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”(Acts 7:60).
As disciples of Jesus, can we do less?