Few words get thrown around as commonly, or as cheaply, as the words “love” and “hate.”
As someone who sometimes points out truths that others may not want to hear, I often find myself being called a “hater.” As a Christian, I am occasionally accused of having “a hate-filled religion.”
The problem with this is that I don’t actually hate anyone. By that I mean, basically, that I don’t wish harm upon anyone. Shoot, I don’t even call people nasty names.
More to the point, there is no aspect of Christianity – a connection with the Creator for which “religion” is a wholly inadequate word – that would call for a person to hate anyone else. Quite the opposite, in fact; the Bible clearly tells us to love others. The only things it tells us to hate are evil and harmful things – i.e., things that would more commonly be called “sinful” if doing so wasn’t so strongly discouraged.
Of course, while the Bible tells those who follow Christ not to hate others, it also warns them that they will be hated in the non-Christian world. Now, I was aware of this from my earliest days as a Christian. Even so I have to say I didn’t quite grasp, until relatively recently, just how deep and irrational that hatred of Christians could be.
It’s downright ironic, frankly, that those would call someone like me a “hater” would demonstrate such vicious hate themselves. Many a person has spoken or written of truths they have learned as a Christian, and has received the most violent and ugly responses imaginable.
Now, there are plenty of people who would be called “religious” (or at least “conservative”), and yet who use harsh language, call others nasty names, and behave aggressively and confrontationally. I don’t recall ever encountering anyone like that in person, but they can certainly be found all over the Internet. If you want to call such people “haters,” you won’t get any argument from me.
But it seems to me that the conservative or “religious” people who get labeled “haters” the most loudly and insistently are not the nasty and aggressive ones. Rather, they’re usually those who simply tell the truth about certain things, and do so politely, respectfully and without malice. They will get the vilest slurs and accusations, and even death threats, thrown at them – by people who, incredibly, believe that they themselves are not “haters.”
I have to wonder how those expressing such hate can dare to accuse anyone else of “hatefulness.” I’d also like to know how such people would define “love” – and I’d like to know what kind of “love” they would claim to be practicing themselves.
It’s long been common for people to talk about the importance of “love,” the power of “love,” and so on. All we need is “love”! “Love” can change the world! But what do people really think “love” means when they talk this way?
Someone once told me that their definition of “love” boiled down to one simple concept: “Don’t hurt anyone.” That sounds fine if you don’t think about it too hard. The problem is that people tend to define “not hurting anyone” – and, therefore, “love” – to suit their own self-serving purposes. For example, a great deal of harm in the world is done by irresponsible sexuality. But people want to engage in it anyway, so they convince themselves that doing so “doesn’t hurt anyone.” They also pretend that encouraging others to engage in it is “loving,” and that discouraging it would be “hateful.”
It’s been said that the opposite of love isn’t hate, but rather indifference. I think there’s a lot of truth to that. To be unloving toward someone doesn’t necessarily mean you’re angry at them, violent toward them or actively wishing them harm. Most of the time it simply means that you don’t have their best interests at heart.
Genuine love always has an element of sacrifice, even if only in a minor way. Someone who has your best interests at heart will risk receiving your anger in order to try to get you to stop believing lies, or to try to get you off of a self-destructive path. But the person who offers false “love” will avoid paying any real cost for your sake. In fact, the goal of their pretend “love” may well be to get something from you, even if it’s just your agreement and cooperation.
The dangerous thing about people who offer false “love” is that they often pass themselves off as offering genuine love – and they’re usually convinced themselves that it’s genuine.
A person who offers false “love” will tell you whatever you want to hear. A person who truly loves will tell you the truth, even if it’s hard for you to accept.
A person who offers false “love” will let you believe that you can do whatever you want. A person who truly loves will warn you about the consequences of your actions.
A person who offers false “love” will let you think you can blame others for everything. A person who truly loves will encourage you to take responsibility for yourself.
People talk a lot about “love” vs. “hate”; but, generally, most of what they call “hate” isn’t really hate, and what they call “love” is very far removed from real, sacrificial love. People who genuinely love usually aren’t opposing “hate” so much as they’re opposing indifference and false “love.”