What Hatred Does to a Soul

3) Hatred causes you to rationalize the cruelest wickedness and justify your crimes. “It’s better that one die for the entire nation,” the High Priest said (John 11:49). Better that Jesus die than for Rome to get upset over this insipient rebellion and send in an army, he was saying. So what if we have to kill one person? Where is the harm in that? It’s for a good cause.

“Sometimes you do what you have to do” is an expression you will hear from the mouths of these types. And, “Well, consider the alternative. If Rome sends an army in, many thousands will die.” Which is what happened anyway, in the year A.D.70, but that was a full generation in the future.

4) Hatred can produce the strangest alliances. To deal with Jesus, the Pharisees colluded with the hated Herodians, the most liberal and worldly sect of their community. John MacArthur calls them “the secular political party which took its name from Herod Antipas and was strong in its support for Rome.” He says they “opposed the Pharisees on nearly every issue, but were willing to join forces with them because both desperately wanted to destroy Jesus.” Some think the Herodian party was composed mostly of Sadducees and rulers of the temple.

They say politics makes strange bedfellows. Hatred of any kind will achieve the same result.

But let’s not keep dumping on the Pharisees and Herodians. After all …

We are all capable of hate. Every human has the power to completely despise others and to be consumed by that ill-will.

There are sports fans in my homeland, the Deep South, who, while supporting their college football team, literally (as opposed to symbolically or figuratively) hate their opponents. You can hear Alabama or Auburn fans calling into talk shows (like Paul Finebaum’s for one) spewing their venom upon their enemies. There is nothing fun about it. They are loud and cruel, vindictive and ugly. No one seems to enjoy the rivalry; these people are dead serious. And they end up poisoning the well for all their friends and family.

Hatred is a poison. When around it, don your Haz-Mat suit.

I’ve seen parents of a daughter whom they were protecting consumed with anger and hatred over the young man she was determined to date and possibly marry. Their anger turned them into irrational and unreasonable strangers.

Cultists often hate the orthodox, who are only too happy to return the favor.

Want to see hatred in action? Watch these short clips …

—Pilate said to the crowd, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said to him, “Let Him be crucified!” Then the governor said, “Why? What evil has He done?” But they only cried out all the more, “Let Him be crucified!” (Matthew 27:22-23). Hatred does not want to be reasoned with. 

—And those who passed by (the cross) blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the son of God, come down from the cross!” Likewise, the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save” (Matthew 27:39-42). Hatred in one feeds upon the hate in others, building into a vortex of ill-will.

—When they heard these things (i.e., the preaching of Stephen), they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. … Then they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord, and they cast him out of the city and stoned him” (Acts 7:54-58). Hatred is satisfied only when the object of the ill-will is dead.

I venture to say these were good people as a rule, but now doing horrible things under the poisonous power of hate.

Hatred and love cannot co-exist. They are sworn enemies, to the death. We have to choose one or the other. Every day we make that choice.

Where does one find love? How do we get the capacity to overcome the human tendency to hate those with whom we disagree and to “do love” to those who are trying to hurt us? Here is the clue:

“The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5).

At salvation, the Holy Spirit arrives in the human soul and brings with Him the love of God. Suddenly, you are loving the very people you previously despised. You and I were saved to love, period. Hate has no place in the believer’s heart.

“For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace …” (Galatians 5:22).

As we grow in Christ, the Spirit within produces what Scripture calls “the fruit of the Spirit,” the nine qualities listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Our love and joy and peace, etc., keep growing and maturing, expanding and enlarging.

Love can always overpower hate. It is much the stronger of the two. But hatred, once we choose that path, will push out the love and smother its voice.

Love is a choice. Love is the believer’s response to evil-doers. Love is something we do …

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who threaten to harm you, and give to those who would take from you what is yours” (paraphrase of Luke 6:27ff.).

That’s the plan: Choose love.

“Well, I can’t make myself love those people!” Sure you can. You can start doing loving things toward them even when you don’t “feel it.”

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Joe McKeever has been a preacher for nearly 60 years, a pastor for 42 years, and a cartoonist/writer for Christian publications all his adult life. He lives in Ridgeland, Mississippi.