Hate is not a new subject. I can’t find any age, or any people, in the history of humanity where hatred wasn’t present. It seems like it can pop up when we least expect it. Last week I was walking in the Walmart parking lot in Sierra Vista when I heard a horn blaring. Evidently one driver felt like the other driver was taking up too much space in the row. The drivers then lowered their windows and started screaming profanities at each other. Then they started waving at each other with just one finger. These were two grown women. I thought that it was very possible that a physical fight was going to break out.
What does it feel like when we get sucked into one of these hate-filled conflicts? Shortly after we moved into our current house we decided to have a large shed built. We were excited about getting the shed, and tried to make sure that we took care of all of the appropriate details. We don’t have a home owner’s association, so all that we had to do was pull the proper permits from the city. Part of the permitting process was to tell the city where the shed would be located. We carefully measured out where we wanted the shed. All of the houses around us have sheds, so I didn’t anticipate any problems. I came home from my church on the day it was being built to check on their progress. The two men building the shed wanted to know what was wrong with the neighbor. She came out to our shared fence line and started yelling and swearing at them. It turns out that our neighbors can see Carr Falls in the mountains from their house, and we were blocking their view. We don’t have a view in our backyard, and I didn’t know that they had a view for us to block.
As I stood at the fence, I could see the husband sitting on their back porch. I waved for him to come to the fence. He did come, then he raged at me. Afterwards my wife and I talked about what we should do. We were no longer excited about the shed, and did not feel comfortable going into our backyard. We decided to have the shed moved to a new location. I went back out to the fence to tell the neighbor, but he refused to come back to the fence. He just swore at me from his house. I have to admit that at this point I started to get angry. It seems to me that anger is usually closely related to hatred. I understand that it can be used as a motivator, but it seems to me to be a lot like an unstable explosive. There are much safer motivators—like love—that can be used. I’m also connecting that swearing easily comes when there is anger and hatred.
I had to hurry back to the church for a mid-week service. I was just backing out of the driveway when the neighbor came stalking around the corner. I stayed in the car so that I could drive away if he wanted to fight. I was shocked when the first thing he did was apologize. He said that he didn’t want these negative feelings between neighbors. That was when I told him we would move the shed. He couldn’t believe that we would do this for them. The next day he apologized again. It turns out that his wife had already written a letter to the editor about us that was published the next morning. She tried to get it pulled out, but it was too late. When everything was over, they both brought us some nice flowers and a thank you card.
I don’t know how to erase hatred from our society, but I know that if our main tools are more hatred and anger, it will only be magnified. Part of the solution is to start with ourselves. We need to eliminate hatred from our lives. I’m going to go even farther and risk getting people angry at me. We need to take anger out of our lives. Anger is only useful if we can turn it off at just the right moment. Most people can’t do this. Anger has a way of getting us into trouble, so let’s choose not to use it. There are other motivators, like love, that are much safer to use.
I feel confident in saying that there have been occasions when each of us have said or done something that was mean or hateful. I know that I have. When we do this, we risk creating a ripple effect of hate. With even more confidence, I know that each of us have said or done things filled with love. This has the possibility of starting a ripple effect of love.
Let’s intentionally look for more ways to love people in an effort of creating a tsunami of love! This should include the people that we disagree with the most. Years ago I knew a crusty old newspaper editor when I was pastoring in East Texas. He told me how his newspaper office was being picketed by a radical group that had problems with the paper’s viewpoint. In the heat of a summer afternoon they continued with their picketing. He personally went outside and invited the picketers to come inside to rest in the air conditioning. When they refused, he want back inside and got some ice water for each of them. Funny enough, that is when they stopped picketing,
Hate is only only one decision away from being eliminated from our world. The problem is that we all need to make the decision to quit hating at the same time. We can’t make the decision for others, but we can make our decision now. We never know how God might use our love to touch the lives of others.
Your brother on the journey, Mark