Authored by Dan Roselle
“I hate him!” I thought to myself. I had just gotten off the phone with a longtime acquaintance and it had not gone well. After all I’ve done for him and how I’ve helped him, how could he treat me like this? In my mind, he was in the wrong and my strong feelings were justified.
I’ve worked around teens for years and it’s fairly common to hear one of them say something like, “I really hate it when he does that” or “I hate her for saying that.”
My response to those teens, in my I’m-your-counselor-and-you-should-listen-to-me sort of way, was, “Hate’s a pretty strong word; maybe you could say ‘I strongly dislike this or that’ instead.” Most often the teen would stoically repeat the same sentence somewhat monotone, “Okay, I strongly dislike…” with the emphasis on “dislike” as if they didn’t really mean it. But I remember one girl telling me, “Well, ‘hate’ expresses my strong feelings, and what I’m feeling is more than just strongly disliking it.”
These “hate” comments, though frequent with teens, weren’t even a rare occurrence in my adult life; I never said that word. But suddenly I found myself in a situation where I felt more than just strong dislike for an individual. I didn’t like what this person had done to me and how he had treated me after all the kindness I had shown him. I tried to talk to him to clear the air between us, but the situation didn’t change. So that day when I was thinking about this person and that “I hate him!” thought came, I was shocked. I stopped and thought about that feeling of hatred. I don’t recall feeling that way before, at least not for as long as I can remember, and certainly not even thinking it to myself.
Was I justified in not liking this person? Was it okay for me to feel this way in reaction to the things that this person had done to me, even though in my way of seeing it, I had not done anything that would cause him to act this way? Well, it got me thinking: How might Jesus have handled this situation?
Being a student of the Bible, I knew the verses that talk about loving your enemies. At least I thought I did. So I read them again as a refresher.
In Matthew 5:44 Jesus says to love your enemies and to bless those who curse you.1
In Luke 6:27 He says to love your enemies and do good to those who hate you.2
In Luke 6:28 He says we should pray for those who mistreat us.3
In Luke 6:35 He says to, “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.”4
After reading those verses again, I not only knew that I couldn’t hate anymore, but that I needed to go beyond just “not hating” to actively doing good, blessing, and praying for the person I felt I hated. That was the hardest part! That meant I had to change my thought patterns and start thinking about what I would do to obey Jesus’ admonition to be like His Father, who was kind to the unthankful and evil. Wow!
During this time when I was experiencing these feelings, I had also been listening to some talks given by a preacher. In one talk he tells a story about a couple of people whom he hated, and these feelings went on for a number of years. I could relate to some of the feelings he had and how he felt that he was in the right and they were in the wrong, and he had thoughts similar to mine, which is what got him searching the Scriptures for how to overcome those feelings.
This is when it dawned on the preacher that his hatred for those two people only hurt him, not them. The more he thought about them, the more he hated them, until finally he hit a point where he realized that his hatred was wrong. Not knowing what else to do, he began to pray for them. At first his prayers were like, “Teach ’em a lesson, Lord” or “Correct them, Lord, and show them how wrong they are.” Those are what I call “judgment prayers,” telling the Lord how to deal with someone whom you’ve already judged to be in the wrong.
However, Jesus soon showed this man that he needed to go further and do as Jesus instructed in the Bible and bless these individuals in his prayers. So this man’s prayers started to become more positive. He started to ask Jesus to show these individuals His love in special ways, to provide for them, to manifest His blessings to them in physical ways. It wasn’t long before this preacher had a change of heart toward these two people. He soon realized that not only did he not hate them anymore, but he started to feel more love and concern for them, and his prayers for them became deeper and more meaningful.
He ended his story by saying that over the years the Lord brought reconciliation between him and each of the two individuals. It was a testimony to the power of prayer and the results of obedience to the scriptural admonition to love your enemies and to do good to those that hate you.
You might recall that in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 5, Jesus said that if you know that your brother is angry with you or has something against you, before you go to the altar to make an offering to God, or before you come to the Lord with your own petitions, you should first of all go to the one who is angry with you and reconcile with him.5 It’s interesting to note that Jesus didn’t say that you should wait for the one who is angry with you to come and ask forgiveness. He said you have to make the first move. When there’s a relationship problem, a difficulty in communication, or feelings of hatred or anger, or any misunderstanding, Jesus clearly puts the responsibility in our court to do something about it.
Jesus’ words are true, they work; they are not just nice thoughts, but they actually work. It’s happening in my life. I find that as I pray deeper and more meaningful prayers for the person who I felt hatred toward, the hate is being replaced with feelings of concern, of love. It’s working. I feel the change in my own life and my thoughts. I wish I could say that I have had a complete change and I now loooove this person, but the truth is that I’m still working through my feelings. When those strong unloving feelings enter into my thoughts, I do pray those positive prayers, those blessings prayers, rather than the judgment ones. That’s progress for me. I trust that as I continue to obey what the Bible says about loving others—even our enemies—the total victory will come.
Are there people in your life, your school, your work, or your family that you don’t like, or maybe you just can’t get along with? Rather than just thinking about how badly they’ve treated you, or how much you don’t like them, turn those thoughts into prayers.—Sincere prayers where you ask Jesus to bless them, protect them, and to pour out His love on them. Test the words of Jesus. Try really loving your enemies. Do good to them, bless them with your thoughts, your words, your prayers, and be kind to them. And as you do, I guarantee that you’ll experience a change in how you feel toward them.
1 King James Version.
2 New International Version.
3 New International Version.
4 New Living Translation.
5 Matthew 5:23-24.
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright © 2011 by The Family International