Hate and anger - have you ever seen them paired together? Sure you have. They are the automatic response of many of us when we have been wronged. They are the automatic response of many of us when we have a preconceived notion of the way things ought to be...and they aren't. They are the automatic response to other hate and anger.
But Jesus told us to be different. He told us to respond to people's anger and hatred with love.
44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!
27 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you.
35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.
Why would he do that? I thought Jesus loved us as well. Doesn't he want us to defend ourselves? Doesn't he want us to ensure our own safety? I understand that he wants us to teach others about love, but doesn't he want us to be around to teach them? After all, we won't be around to teach about love if they kill us...will we?
I have worked in a juvenile placement facility and at a prison, and have learned a thing or two about self defense. I learned a thing or two about the most effective way to respond to anger and hatred. I would love to share them. When I first interviewed to work at the juvenile placement facility I was a bit nervous. I was going to be working with big, angry teenage boys, many of them gang members, and I was a small, young woman, less than five feet tall. Everyone was scared that they were capable of overpowering me. But true power doesn't come from physical strength. It doesn't come from physical control.
Back to the interview. I was asked how I would respond to someone if they came at me full of hatred and brandishing a weapon. I listed off my best street fighter self defense moves. My interviewer slowly shook his head and told me that the ONLY response would be to act calm and indifferent. He told me to lean back against the wall, stand on one foot, and fold my hands across my chest or stuff them in my pockets- James Dean style. I'm thinking he is insane. I am just opening myself up for a beating. But here is what he taught me, and after quite a bit of experience with such situations, I have learned that he was, without a doubt, right.
There is no more dangerous animal than a cornered animal. If you respond with anger and hatred and attempt to control someone who is already angry and full of hatred, they will shake off any remnants of coolness and self control, and come out fighting for their lives with fully unrestrained, undignified rage. If you do manage to overpower them...if they do appear to surrender, you still have not conquered them. They are still seething with anger and hatred on the inside, looking for another opportunity to rise up again and perhaps get the upper hand.
I have also learned that anger and hatred are like rabbits. They produce plentiful offspring. But their coupling doesn't just produce more anger and hatred. They produce contempt and disrespect. They produce prejudice and violence. They produce a feeling of righteousness and justification for sins. They produce loathing and they produce rage. They produce torture and they produce killers. But they must be fed in order to have the strength to reproduce. They must be fed anger and hatred in order to develop.
And I believe that is why Jesus told us to love our enemies. If we feed the anger and hatred...love....it never obtains the strength to produce any offspring. Love is the only thing that has the power to disband the pair. The only thing! Love is like an infectious disease to the darkness of anger and hatred. It eats away at all the darkness in it's path until no more is left.
18 If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone.
19 So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.
See, love and peace are the only way to victory. I have heard people say that 'redemptive violence' is necessary. To redeem something is to recover it, to free it, to restore it. This can never be accomplished through violence...one of the offspring of anger and hatred. Because more anger and hatred, even justified through a valiant cause will merely feed the anger and hatred of the enemy.
I once had a friend who was a victim of domestic abuse. We would rally around her and try to defend her. We would strike out toward the angry coward she chose to live with. Finally she begged us to stop. Our anger only fed the anger of the man who was beating her, which led to more violence toward her. It always does.
If we think we are going control people who are mistreating others...if we think we can strong-arm them into ceasing their violence, their rage, their torture and murder of innocent people...through our own anger and violence....were are wrong. They are not going to say "Oh, now I see where I was wrong. I should be treating people with compassion" because the anger and hatred within them will only grow stronger, fed by our own. And we begin to create exceptions to the commands of Christ. We begin to see loopholes, and we readily step through them, justified that Jesus would approve of our own hate and anger, because it is for 'good'...it is for Jesus.
The only way to put an end to the cycle of anger, hatred, violence, injustice, rage, and killing through retaliation is to stop. We are supposed to stop and pray for our enemies. We are to shower them with love. I know it sounds crazy but it works. And not only does it kill the anger and hate in the hearts of our enemies, but it changes us from the inside. It starts to slowly change the way we see other people. It starts to allow Jesus to take over our perception of them, and we begin to see these people...these people that were once our enemies...as Christ sees them.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.
10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Redemptive violence is not capable of redeeming anything. Christ is our redeemer!
*Would you like to learn about the true power of love in the face of anger and hatred? Look into the history of Rwanda. Look into the present state of the country and how the present governemnt put an end to the violence. Love works!