Monday, July 25, 2011

Love or Hate - The Choice is Ours.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend yesterday. He told me that he had been in a situation where he had overheard someone talking very rudely about me, saying terrible things that weren't true. My friend seemed really upset by what he had witnessed. He shared that he had been so angry at what he was hearing, he couldn't trust himself to respond. Just talking about it to me seemed to inflame his anger again.

Then he asked me something interesting. He asked me if it encouraged me, that he was so angry at the fact that someone was slandering me in public. I think the interesting part is that it didn't encouraged me. It saddened me, for my friend. I searched my heart, more than once, because to be honest, I was surprised that my friend's outrage didn't make me feel more vindicated, protected, or cared for.

Like any victim of abuse or bullying, I have day dreamed about being rescued by a superhero, someone who swoops in to save the day.

One thing I have learned, though, is that hatred and bitterness are infectious. My friend had been infected, and my immediate concern was that the anger would begin to destroy him as well. I shared with him that there is no power in hatred, that it does not protect us. In fact, when we allow anger and hatred into our hearts, we are locking ourselves up with the enemy.

I can do my part to create a peaceful, loving, safe home for my daughter, my room-mate Cathy and I, only as long as I do not bring anger and hatred into this home. It is my choice. I wanted my friend to know that as much as I appreciate his protective heart for me, I did not want anger and hatred to steal his joy or peace.

God does not allow us to hate for a reason. We think that hate will protect us, help us avoid being hurt again, keep us from foolishly trusting others, equip us to defend ourselves. But hate is itself destructive. It is kind of like getting a serious infection on our hand, and deciding that to avoid further infections, we will cut off the hand. No hand, no pain. We permanently cripple ourselves to avoid painful injuries that would eventually heal. Hatred does this to us.

I have seen it. In fact, the voices that my friend heard were the distorted, crippled voices of hatred. I remember when that voice could only speak loving words about me. I remember when that heart was soft. Hatred was seeded by childhood wounds, watered and fertilized by undisciplined thoughts, sinful behaviour, unforgiveness, denial and other hate-filled voices, until it has blossomed into full-grown, destructive rage, bitterness and hate.

It is a heart-breaking reality that the one violence we cannot protect others from is the one they willfully inflict on themselves. I encouraged my friend to choose love, and to recognize that love is tough, and truth-telling, and honest, but it is also a shield against hate. Love limits the immediate effects of hatred on us and protects us from any long term effects. It is true power.

I have to go to God's Spirit within me continually for the love that I want to flow out of my life. I do not have what it takes to love those who hate me. I daily, hourly, sometimes minute-by-minute, ask God to love others through me. When God commands that we love, He is also gracious enough to understand that He is asking the impossible and so He offers the means of obeying Him along with the commandment. Our difficult moment comes in making the choice to love rather than to hate. For me, this choice is made easier when I see the fruit of hatred in the lives of those I love. I don't want that in my life. And as I told my dear friend yesterday, I don't want it for him, either.

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