For a Christian, hatred is strange. It is foreign to the spirit of Christianity to hate people. Our heartbeat is the polar opposite of hatred. For someone to call themselves Christian and yet hold hatred in their heart and to despise another person, is quite contrary to the nature of the faith. Such a person has neither understood nor embraced the faith that they claim.
Therefore to understand and yet explain why there is so much hatred in this world, is a difficult thing for a Christian to do.
As a Christian, I am called to love my enemies and do good to those who abuse me. So when people treat me badly, my response must not be one of vindictive revenge. Instead, I must pray for them, asking God not to hold them accountable for their sins against me. I can choose to withdraw or step back from them, and often that is wise. I can choose not to trust them. But I must not hold their sins against them.
As it stands, sin creates a barrier between people. That barrier is weakened through forgiveness and bought down by the person who has caused the wrong, seeking the forgiveness of the person they have hurt. From there, trust and the relationship begins to be rebuilt.
The point in saying all this is as follows. Christians are called to love one another and forgive each other freely. They are also called to treat those outside the faith with grace and gentleness. Hatred is never an option. So when the world responds to the Church with hatred, most of us struggle to comprehend this.
It is into this situation that Jesus spoke in the latter part of John 15, when He said, “If the world hates you, know that it hated Me first… yet because you are not of this world… the world hates you… if they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you… these things they will do to you, because of My name… The one who hates Me hates My Father also.” (selections from John 15:18-23).
So it is hard to understand the motivation of those who persecute the Christians. It is difficult to read of the suffering that many Nigerian Christians endure as their villages are being burnt, their children kidnapped and their men are executed on almost a daily basis.
Closer to home, we have seen the trial that Cardinal George Pell has endured. It seems that at the Vatican, the auditing work he was doing was unraveling fraudulent activity by a group in the Church. It has now come out this week, that one of those responsible bribed person(s) in Australia with about $1 Million to make up false claims of pedophilia against him. These false claims bought George Pell back to Australia, where he was charged and convicted.
In a world that lives as if there is no God, hatred, brutality, and betrayal are commonplace. I know that somehow, this is often focused on Christians, and somehow, it goes back to Jesus our Lord. Jesus knows the hearts of people and He understands this, and He warns us that this is a reality. I still struggle to understand what makes people act with such evil, but I am comforted to know that Jesus fully expected this.
Our call is to walk with Jesus. At times we will need to endure the unrelenting and unreasonable hatred of ungodly people. Knowing that this is part of belonging to Jesus, gives us comfort at such times.