You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:43-44
The English word “misery” comes from a Greek word miseo which is translated “to hate.” Yes, we know what hatred is, and with all due respect to what psychologists can do, I’ve never met anyone whose heart was filled with hatred for someone who was a happy person. A happy-hater is a contradiction of terms.
In the Upper Room Jesus told His disciples that He would go to the cross, fulfilling the prophesy that He was hated without cause (John 15:27). So how did Jesus respond to the venom of hatred that He encountered? Hate those who hated Him? That’s what men had done for centuries. That was accepted dogma defined by the rabbis of His day. Peter says, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).
“Yes,” you say, “but I can’t do that. I meet fire with fire.” Yes, of course– which means you both get burned. So what should be our response when we find that the fire of hatred has filled our souls and poisoned our thinking?
First, be honest enough to admit that you hate someone. That’s a hard first step, but it’s necessary. Frankly, all hatred is not wrong. You cannot love anything without hating that which would destroy it. Hating sin, hating evil in the world, hating the bitterness that tears apart relationships, families, and turns fathers against sons and mothers against daughters is different from hating the perpetrator of evil. David asked the question, “Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you?” (Psalm 139:21).
The next step is to analyze the reason you hate someone. That’s easy in many cases. Someone hurt you without cause. You became a victim and thus you know exactly whom you hate and why. Yet, when you find it in your heart to put that person in God’s hands, knowing that vengeance belongs to Him, you release the hatred that has made you a prisoner as well as a victim. That makes sense.
Step three is to ask God to deal with the offender and free you of the burden of getting even. I have known some people who lived for years, even decades with the sole purpose of seeking revenge. So was the taste of revenge sweet when it finally came? No, like someone whose cancer had been cut out, the damage had been done, which was devastating.
Step number four is difficult at best, but it works as a therapy in your soul. It is to pray for the person whom you hate. Why? Well, for one reason Jesus commanded it. He said, “"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:43-45).
When you pray for an enemy, he shrinks in size. Instead of looking like a formidable Goliath who towers over you, you begin to see him as a small, misdirected, weak person who desperately needs God.
Finally, release your hatred! One of the survivors of the Holocaust told how when he boarded a ship to come to America following World War 2, he made the decision to leave his hatred behind, and he noticed that those who got on with their lives, who set new goals, who carved out a new life, were the ones who refused to dwell on the injustices and deeds of the past. Only then could they grow and move on with life.
Resource reading: John 15:18-25