Love and hate

"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Matthew 5:44

I hate with intensity. I hate those who hate me, the liars and cheats, those who bask in or misuse their power, the unjust, those who are selfish and cause problems in my life, the two faced individuals who pretend to be a friend but are gossipers. Praying for my enemies - a fellow believer prayed that the person would know God and be saved, and I paused for a long time wondering if I could say amen with sincerity. If Jesus, in his life, dealt with people worse than these individuals, I can't imagine what motivation there would be to love.

The Pharisees hated him, were jealous of his miracles and popularity that they even tried to kill the man Jesus raised from the dead. The Pharisees were self important, love to be praised for their piety, but really, they were hypocrites who loved money and power.

Then, there were his disciples who didn't understand who he was, or what he came to do after being by his side everyday for three years. Worse, one was disappointed that he didn't come to establish an earthly kingdom, and sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. The others fell asleep when Jesus asked them to pray for him before he was executed, and ran away, even openly denied to have known Jesus, because they were afraid to be associated with him. Good friends to have, aye?

There was the crowd, by the influence of the religious leaders, hated him, mocked him, and wanted him to be whipped and crucified. Pilate, the judge who knew that Jesus was innocent, but wanted to keep his job and the crowd happy at the expense of a man's life. And finally near his death, the insulting thief who taunted and challenged him.

Is it for people like this (and the people I hate) that Jesus came to Earth, to live and die for? What did God see in these people? If I had every authority to judge, like the disciples I would call on fire upon the people who treated me unfairly, and strike them to their destruction. Make sure they had the humiliation and punishment they deserved. Meekness and majesty.

O what a mystery
Meekness and majesty
Bow down and worship
For this is your God

It's easy to see their failings but I guess, we've also hated you God, hated each other. Like the Pharisees, aren't we often more concerned about feeling good, and having a good status in society, even in church, rather than being devoted to God or caring for the poor? Doesn't our jealousy for the talents of others lead to hate and snide remarks? Like the disciples, how easily is it for us to claim to know Jesus but quickly exchange him for other priorities of this world? Faced with death, would we also deny our God? Like the crowd, doesn't our society also mock God and make all sorts of disrespectful jokes about him? Given the same situation, maybe we would have easily been the unlovable characters.

Surely, it's love that prompted him to respond with patience and forgiveness in life, and an offer of eternal life in death.

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." - 1 John 4:9-10

How about my hate? I try, and ask for help. Try to remember how Jesus loved. That judging others, I will also be judged. That I can't say I love God and "curse men, who have been made in God's likeness". That love is a command. Today I read ODJ and came across an article on forgiveness - praying "as we have forgiven those who sin against us" (Lord's prayer) is an implicit prayer for God not to forgive us, if we harbour unforgiveness.



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