Friday, July 27, 2012

Dealing With People Who Hate You

I left a comment on a recent news article, “I was not aware The Jim Henson Company supported homosexuality. I’m very sorry to hear that.” This brought the ire of some homosexuals who had also read the article. But they used words like bigot and homophobic. One of them took it upon himself to tell me that no one cared about me either. This after he had already told someone else who had commented on the article that no one cared about him. I’ve come to the conclusion that some people hate me. They really, really hate me. And they don’t even know me.

How are we to deal with this? By now, you’ve heard that the Bible teaches that we are to love everyone. If you haven’t, just go look at your enemy’s website. He’ll be sure to tell you that. But let’s look at what Jesus said:

Ye have heard it said, “Thou shalt love they neighbor, and hate thine enemy.” But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. – Matthew 5:43-45

That’s what it says, but what does it mean? First, be fond of them. That’s hard for us to do, but that’s what Jesus tells us to do. Though we don’t like the lifestyle they lead and we don’t like the way they treat us, we should never wish anything bad to happen to them. Why? Because that’s the way God is. Did you know that the Bible says that God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell? He is the one who sends them there, but he doesn’t want to. One of our greatest joys should be that those who hate us become our brothers in the family of God.

Second, bless them. To bless someone is to make statements desiring or expecting good to come to a person. Blessing is the opposite of cursing, which is to make statements desiring someone’s harm. We can’t get behind everything those who hate us do, but we can look for the good things they do and wish them success in those things.

Third, do good to them. Perhaps it is like a family member you don’t get along with, but you buy them a gift for Christmas every year anyway. It isn’t enough for us to just bless our enemies, we need to put our words into action. When we see them in need, let’s help them. As you know, I love the story of Hosea and I used it for the basis of For the Love of a Devil. One of the things I love about that story is that even though Hosea knew that his wife was with other men, he went right on taking care of her. When she refused to accept his help, he went so far as to give to her lovers so they would be able to support her. It wasn’t the situation he wanted and he wasn’t willing to accept her actions, but he did good to her anyway.

Fourth, pray for them. Don’t you think it odd that Jesus would put prayer as the last thing? So often, we talk about how prayer should be the first thing we do and yet, Jesus put it last in this situation. This isn’t a prayer asking God’s will in how you should deal with your enemy. Jesus already told us how to deal with them. There’s no need to pray about that. I believe the reason prayer shows up last is because it is at this point that prayer is all you can do. The word translated as “despitefully use” also means “insult, treat abusively, revile, accuse falsely, threaten.” That’s typically what we see when our enemy is someone leaving a comment on a social media website. Persecution implies a physical action that would make someone flee.

My experience with revilers on websites is that they don’t listen. No matter how nicely you try to respond, they have their mind made up and they will attack anything you say. Even when you agree with them on some point, they will attack because they assume that you are only agreeing so they will let their guard down. If people won’t listen. If people refuse to acknowledge our desire for their good, there really is nothing more we can do but pray. It is within God’s ability to soften the hearts of our enemies.

It is not our place to punish our enemies for their sin. We are to leave that to God and the government structure he has put into place. We are not to encourage people to sin and there is nothing wrong with us saying that what they are doing is wrong, but we need to give special consideration to what it means to love them. It is so easy for us to write them off as evil beyond redemption, but what we really need to do is to demonstrate a better way.