Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Is hate ever ok?

Before you read this  post, check out the literal definition of the word "Hate”. Let it marinate...got it? Ok...let's go. 

“Hate the sin, love the sinner”

This phrase gets thrown around so much by Christians, it should be inducted into the “almost a Bible verse, but not” hall of fame. Come to think of it, it’s mostly cited as a means to point out judgmental or prejudicial behavior. Not to be too trusting of the credibility of the internet, but most signs seem to indicate that it’s actually a quote of Ghandi’s.

Ever since I saw Jet Li’s Unleashed, I’ve questioned people’s processing of their feelings of love, and recently, hate. As a true martial arts fan, I draw a lot lessons from any film that involves high kicks and back flips.  One of the final scenes of the movie involved Jet Li’s character’s “adoptive father”, crying at the prospect of losing Li, exclaiming that he loved him. If it weren’t for the fact that he’d kept his “son” collared and locked in a cage, letting him out only to fight for money and protection, the scene would have been sweet.

Instead, it was saddening. You were getting a clear look at the long sitting and uninterrupted perversion of a human being. (Bob Hoskins is one of my favorite actors and played the scene beautifully.) My first thought was “wow, this guy’s twisted.” Then it hit me that maybe, he really was experiencing love, and when he listed how he’d fed and clothed and cared for his child, that he meant it. Maybe he felt the exact same thing that you or I feel, but executed it in the language of abuse. 

This same concept can be extended to the terrorist, who for love of country and family, kills and sacrifices their own life. Even Hitler, extreme though the reference may be…it seems that most psychohistorians put him in the category of having narcissistic personality disorder as opposed to being an “unfeeling” sociopath. With the qualification that I have no background in psychology, I don’t find it impossible to believe that the same person who commits unspeakable atrocities against those he views as sub-human, has feelings he processes as love for those he sees as his equals…this is not to say that the executions of love would be perfect, or even good (a chapter in this book takes a brilliant look at the effects that slave ownership took on the families of the owners themselves...let's just say the slave masters weren't unaffected by their "work"). The fact that we acknowledge that God’s love is perfect tells me, that we do understand that love can be imperfect, and exercised in perverse and horrible ways. 

So after the topic of hate came up in Bible study, and I kicked it around with my cousin, I started looking at it from a Christian perspective. All I have to say is thank goodness for online searches and Strong’s, because despite a lifetime of Bible reading and memorization…I’m still embarrassingly sketchy when it comes to verse citation. So yeah…I started wondering…who’s doing the hating in the Bible? Is it ever commanded? Is it ever condoned? Is this possibly an issue of translation?

I pulled 127 references to the word “hate”. As I expected, it was pretty common in the Old Testament.  God did a lot of it and I don’t doubt he still does and I’m sure he does it perfectly…but does that mean it’s ok for us? Can we sustain an emotion like hate without it eventually corrupting our already fragile and imperfect love? Are we able to ever, on our own, discern its application well enough to let it grow unchecked? Here are some of the verses I found: 

Psalm 97:10
Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked

Proverbs 8:13
To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.

Luke 14:26
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.

John 12:25
Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

Romans 12:9
[ Love in Action ] Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

I find a few things interesting…things that make me question the translation of the word “hate” (I’d love to hear input on the translation if anybody has any). Specifically, Luke. Is Jesus commanding us to have an intense hostility, and aversion to our family? I don’t think so. What I do think though, is that we are being commanded to reject, and let go of the things that tie and bind us to this life…and that, makes me think that the concept of the English word "hate" in the Bible…well, it doesn’t have one set meaning.

There goes my clear answer.

I’m still left wondering, if we as people should actively embrace the emotion (not to be confused with the rejection of what is wrong or against God’s teaching) of hatred and not eventually let it consume, and even override the love that pulls 686 references in the same Bible. 

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