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Dismantling hate

March 1, 2011
By PASTOR ROGER LEMKE, Fishers of Men Lutheran Church

James Thurber tells about his grandfather, who fought as many as a dozen Indians bare-handed and vanquished them all! On his deathbed, he was asked by his minister: “have you forgiven all your enemies?’ “Haven’t got any!” The minister replied: “That’s remarkable. How did a red-blooded, two-fisted old battler like you go through life without making any enemies?” Thurber’s grandpop casually replied: “Easy, I shot ‘em all.”

When faced with an evildoer most of us have a natural and understandable reaction: fight of flight. We give the excuse: “It’s human, it’s instinctual; it’s a deeply ingrained mammalian response to danger.”

You know the drill: if you flee, you hope to run faster than you ever dreamed possible. But if you fight, you look for one thing and one thing only: blood! Even in arguments, you want the offender to bleed. The guy who disagreed with you, the boss who fired you, the woman who called you a pencil-pushing nerd-geek. Pow! First blood. Down they go!

Jesus knew that you don’t have to attend every argument to which you are invited. Therefore, He says replace those natural reactions of fight and flight with a third response “Love.” “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Do unto others as you would have them do to you” (Matt. 5:44 7:12). No matter how much you want to, love does not retaliate. Jesus calls us to reject absolutely the principle of retaliatory violence.

I believe that the most common spiritual problem among Christians is not overt hate, but that we secretly harbor resentment toward others. We are nice people. We wouldn’t openly harm anyone, but, boy, can we bear a grudge! Some people hold grudges until these grudges die of old age and then they have them stuffed and mounted.

Imagine holding a 12 oz. to 16 oz. glass of water. How much does this glass weigh? Trick question. The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long you try to hold it. If you hold it for a minute, no problem. If you hold it for an hour, you might have a bit of an ache in your arm. If you hold it for a day, you might have to call an ambulance. In each case, it’s the same weight, but the longer you hold it, the heavier it becomes and the more of a burden it puts upon you. In like manner those who hold on to their grudges put a terrible burden on themselves — a burden that saps their spiritual, emotional and physical health.

A little girl wrote to her pastor: “Dear pastor, I heard you say: ‘love our enemies.’ I am only six and do not have any yet. I hope to have some when I am seven. Love, Jennifer.”

Enemies! The likelihood is that we’ll have many in our pilgrimage on earth. Personality conflicts, the clashing of egos, wills, philosophies and goals, inevitably put us at odds with someone else. However, Jesus calls us to dismantle our hate with love. His strategy for dealing with our enemies is quite simple: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” (Matt. 7:12). Did you note the action words: “Pray, Love, Do.” Jesus knows that it is easier to act our way into a new set of feelings than it is to feel or think our way into a new set of actions. Jesus knows that we will not be able to break the log-jam of our anger and dismantle hate until we begin treating our enemies with love.

There is no “pow, down they go” for those who follow Jesus! Why? Because Jesus is the prince of peace and to those who follow Him He says: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God” (Matt. 5:9).


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