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I encountered a blog which maintained that God hates certain groups of people, and that therefore believers in God—specifically, Christians—should also hate them.
The blog, from a group that calls itself Christian, provided Biblical quotes to support that notion. What struck me about them was that only one quote came from the Gospels and none originated with Christ. Yet, even the Old Testament references co-existed uneasily with this command:
You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely reason honestly with your neighbor, and not suffer sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. – Leviticus 19:17-18.
Who is Our Neighbor?
An expert on Jewish law famously asked Jesus this very question. Christ replied:
A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing and wounded him and departed, leaving him half dead. By chance a priest came down that way. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite … But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him and bound up his wounds … and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. … Now which of these three do you think was a neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
He said, “The one who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” – Luke 10:30-37.
The context for this is crucial, because what prompted the expert in Jewish Law to ask about the identity of his neighbor was Christ’s answer to another question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
In clear, unambiguous language Christ explained that eternal life is conditional upon how we treat those we feel we should despise.
His choice of a Samaritan to model godly behavior removes any doubt as to his meaning. During Christ’s time, Samaritans and Jews saw each other as sinful and heretical, each practicing their own version of Judaism. By religious law, they were forbidden to even associate, which is why Christ’s interactions with Samaritans caused such outrage.
Christ ignored the Samaritan’s sins, just as the Samaritan ignored the heresies or sins he has been taught to believe are inherently Jewish. Instead, the Samaritan helped the Jewish victim and cared for him.
The conclusion is inescapable: a believer must be loving and caring even to those they’re taught to despise. Christ called on his audience to show loving-kindness to their neighbors without caring how sinful they may or may not be. Further, Christ cautioned strongly against trying to judge another’s sins:
But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. … Give to everyone who asks of you. … Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. … Be therefore merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you shall be forgiven. … For with the measure you use, it will be measured unto you. – Luke 6:27-38.
Can any of us be comfortable with that last sentence?
Consider Christ’s last words to his disciples before he goes to the cross. He doesn’t preach doctrine or list sins we ought to hate someone for. He tells his disciples the one thing they must do to remain connected to him and to God: obey His commandment. He then gives that commandment: “that you love one another.” – John 15: 12, 17.
This is so important to Christ that between the Passover meal and his arrest by Roman soldiers, he repeats it several times.
How often and in how many ways must God tell us that love is the one thing we must get right if we are to ”remain in Him?”
Christ tied this blessed state irrevocably to the primal commandment to love our neighbors. He revealed that the way to eternal life is to love those we feel most inclined to despise, and used the last moments of his human life to tell the teachers of his Faith that they must follow one commandment above all others—they must love one another.
The disciples of Christ understood this command. The apostle Paul, who learned the Faith from James after his epiphany, stated the importance of love in the strongest terms:
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. … and if I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. …
Love suffers long and is kind; love envies not; love flaunts not itself and is not puffed up, does not behave itself improperly, seeks not its own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil ….
Love never fails. But if there are prophecies, they shall fail; if there are tongues, they shall cease; and if there is knowledge, it shall vanish. … So now abide faith, hope, and love, these three. But the greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13.
An epistle of John reads even more bluntly: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar.” – 1 John 4: 20.
Ultimately, God is the only one who can know and judge a person’s heart, soul and mind—something for which we should all be grateful. Our first duty to others, the Baha’i teachings say, is to love them:
Know thou of a certainty that Love is the secret of God’s holy Dispensation … Love is heaven’s kindly light, the Holy Spirit’s eternal breath that vivifieth the human soul. Love is the cause of God’s revelation unto man, the vital bond inherent … in the realities of things. … Love is … the living link that uniteth God with man, that assureth the progress of every illumined soul. Love is the most great law … the spirit of life unto the adorned body of mankind, the establisher of true civilization in this mortal world ….
O ye beloved of the Lord! Strive to become the manifestations of the love of God, the lamps of divine guidance shining amongst the kindreds of the earth with the light of love and concord. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 27.