Just playing catch-up with some old thoughts that I never managed to find time to deal with since last semester; so it has nothing to do with the present.
When I think about the word “hate” and its relation to the Bible, I think of the challenge that us Christians have in being able to love everyone, even those that we hate and despite. They don’t have to be people that we know well, or have met and have had a meal together. We are able to hate those whom we encounter on the train and in the streets for just mere moments, and we don’t even have to put a name to those people. It’s so easy to just be disgusted at something that someone does in a couple of seconds and we end up harbouring a biased view against those people. A simple example would be people who “publicly broadcast” their music on the bus or train, even though they’re using their headphones.
At the heart of the matter, when we hate people (whether we know them or not), we don’t wish them bad fortune in that sense, but perhaps we do tend to convey certain thoughts like “I hope they don’t make it to heaven”, or “God is definitely not for this person”. I have personally had these thoughts multiple times, some of which have been during door-knocking and walk-ups during our evangelistic missions.
It is quite a hurtful thing to have people ignore you while you’re trying to present them with something that would surely be valuable to them had they given the time to appreciate it. It’s also quite hurtful to just simply be exploited because of the misconception that Christians have to be “good" people. Taking our free barbeques for CBS as an example, it really bites at you when people say “I don’t care about God or Christianity, I just want the free food, so where is it?”
But when we hate someone, we base that on the characteristics we don’t like. So rather, we hate someone for the traits that they have and not the actual person. This isn’t normally the thought that goes through our minds because we don’t consider people and their traits to be distinct, we tend to think that it’s the traits that make up the person. Like, Person A wouldn’t be who they are if they weren’t impatient, and Person B wouldn’t be who they are if they weren’t selfish, etc.
However, as we all continue to refine ourselves throughout our lives, trying to let go of bad habits and take on more pleasing ones, we show ourselves to be evidence that change is a fundamental characteristic of each person. The person we were yesterday is still the same person that we are today; perhaps not exactly the same, maybe we are more or less tired than we were yesterday, more or less angry and stressed, more or less with positive or negative emotions. And as such, people are dynamic which is a good thing. It’s make life more interesting because in a sense, you really don’t know what tomorrow brings, for you and for others. Of course what tomorrow brings might not always be good, but then again it’s much better than being able to know or predict what the future holds, there’s no surprise or suspense in the matter.
As such, it is unreasonable to hate a person dynamically; that is, to hate them day in and day out regardless of what type of person they are. We hate people at discrete time intervals (forgive the Actuarial jargon); that is, we hate people at specific times. And we hate them for what they are like at the particular time, which says nothing about who they will be the next day, or even the next minute.
Therefore, hate is somewhat a limited thing; we can only hold onto hate for a finite period of time, or that is, we should hold onto hate for only a finite amount of time. Because the person we hate on one day may be a completely different person the next. People can change so that they no longer have the characteristics that annoy us and cause us to hate them. And if that time does come, what should our attitude towards them be? We cannot continue hating a person for which we no longer have a reason to hate them for. To do so, we have to make up our own reasons for hating someone, and isn’t that simply a biased thing? Irrational, foolish, pointless?
There are people I’ve hated in the past, but I do try my best to not judge them now for who they used to be; because they indeed may have changed. However, if it is not so, and they are still the same person that they were, then your reason for hating them is somewhat justified. I say “somewhat” in that harbouring hate is a downright bad thing, even if you are “forced” to do it; don’t hate unless you absolutely can’t take it.
On the flip side of the coin, I have yet to address love. Love could also be seen in the same light as hate. We love people for who they are at the time; and prudent love should also be when the other person still displays the characteristics for which we originally loved them for. So the flip side of things is that we shouldn’t continue loving someone if they somehow change from good to bad. If they pick up bad traits and drop all their good traits, then how can we continue to love someone for that? It is of course a dark thing. As much as we don’t want to continue hating someone, we most definitely do not want to give up loving someone. But in some relationships, love becomes superficial because people change and the reasons that brought about love in the first place may no longer be valid.
I might not have addressed everything I originally wanted to in this article, since I did leave this unfinished for like a month or so, but for now the conclusion I want to reach is that we should always be reflecting upon our relationships with everyone, those we love and those we hate. Do we continue harbouring those feelings for those people around us that we had from years back? Are they still the same person? Or are they different now? Because if our reasons for having those feelings are no longer rational, we’re going to end up hurting ourselves (that’s what the irrational does), and we may even end up hurting others.
I remember the additional point that I had wanted to make. The direct application of this for Christian Living lies within our attitude towards evangelism. Through our hatred of others we sometimes feel that those people are so horrible that they can never come to know the love of God, that it would be a complete waste of time trying to reach those people with the gospel of Jesus because we expect that they will never accept it. This attitude is wrong and we keep it in our subconsciousness as we look at the people around us and wonder about who we can share the good news with.
To a more applicable extent, for the friends around us, though we might not hate them at all in any way, we may still feel that the person that they are just simply cannot accept what Christianity teaches and so we simply cross them off the list and not tell them about Jesus. It’s quite pre-emptive to give up hope about someone understanding the message of Jesus, especially when we’ve tried once and that person rejected us at the time.
But people are constantly changing, and a person who has hardened their heart against Christianity at one point in their life may not necessarily respond negatively to the same message at another point in time. Henceforth, this just makes our job of evangelism all that much harder. We need to keep persevering in letting others know about Jesus in hope that one day they will finally accept it as truth. The relationship may probably face a lot of tension, and you may face a lot of rejection, but the fruit at the end of the day will balance out the cost.