“Hate” is such an ugly word. And yet I use it all too often. “I hate this traffic.” “I hate coconut!” ( I really don’t like coconut. I think it’s the texture.) “I hate that music.” You get the idea. But, sometimes, dark times, weak times I have even used that word about another person! Horrible! Lord, forgive me!
And I’ve had that word used about me. It was a shock and it hurt deeply. Someone “hates” me? Really?
Nowadays it seems that the word “hate” is used in all kinds of context. It seems that some think that every disagreement is based on hatred. And great shame is brought on those who are accused of hating, so much so that “hating haters” is acceptable!
The Lord Jesus promised us that we Christians would be hated by those who hate Him. Not one of the “promises” we like to recall, but there it is!
Look at Matthew 10:16-22:
The Lord said to his disciples, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.”
Jesus lays out a troubling picture for His disciples after He’s gone. He promises them that they will be mistreated, dragged before the courts, and even betrayed by their own families. And He promised them that they would be hated! Wow, talk about a dose of unpleasant reality!
So, what is our reaction to being “hated?” Pain, disappointment, fear? Sure, and even more emotions as well. But there is a promise to us that salvation will be ours IF we “endure to the end.” And endurance is based on exercise, focus, daily practice, and confidence! Notice endurance isn’t helped by returning hatred for hatred. Endurance isn’t made possible when we shrink away from the negative aspects of others hating us. No, endurance is made possible when we don’t return evil for evil when we refuse to hate those who hate us, when we actually love those who hate us. That’s what makes endurance possible and takes all the power of hate away!
Today, it matters why you are hated! If you’re hated because you are selfish, mean spirited, disagreeable, and hard-hearted, then that’s not so surprising. But, those who follow Christ will be hated because their lives expose the spiritual poverty of those who also hate Christ. That hatred is both promised and unsurprising. But you never fail until you allow one who hates you to have you hate him in return! And the debilitating and de-energizing emotions of returning hatred for hatred makes it impossible to endure! So, let us exercise our faith, focus on Christ, practice the disciplines of the faith, and have confidence that God will give us His strength and we will endure to the end and be Orthodox on Purpose!