Hate is a strong emotion! It is also a dark emotion that has no place in the heart of a Christian. You can dislike someone or not agree on major issues, but hate should not be embraced.

As we celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, JR. this upcoming week, remember he fought hate with love.

Yet, so many people in our culture express hate on social media, in the streets and through division and targeting those who are different. To honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, let’s do everything we can to remove hate in our circles and call each other to love. If we did this, the impact on a community and personal relationships would be significant. In fact, consider what hate does to the brain.

When someone is in love, the parts of the brain involved in judgment and reason deactivate. This is why we often say that love makes someone “stupid” and they lose their good sense. But hate actually heightens your judgment. It activates regions in the brain associated with aggression. The motor parts of your brain move that aggression into action. This is why holding on to hate is dangerous. The more a person hates, the more prone he or she is to taking action. Haters calculate their moves and plan revenge. Reason and rumination are both involved.

There are many reasons why people find themselves in this negative state of emotion–they have been deeply hurt by someone, fear others who are different, or feel empty and target others as a way to deal with the void. Sometimes, we hate because others remind us of negative things about ourselves and we project those feelings on to others. Hate can also be bred by betrayal and by envy. It can become all-consuming and affect a person physically as well as spiritually and emotionally. In the end, hate leads to bitterness and destruction.

We learn to hate somewhere—whether the source is on-line, a family system, disturbed friends, violent video games—something has to begin to build hate as a way to deal with others and/or ourselves. But hatred is a heart sin. For the Christian, it is viewed as an act of murder. We are directed to rid ourselves of this destructive emotion.

The science of hate tells us that people who feel hate often believe they can also be loving and kind in other parts of their lives, but hate is a cancer and brings only destruction. “Whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” 1 John 2:11.

There is no positive benefit or place for hate other than directing that emotion to evil. Psalm 97:10. “Let those who love the Lord hate evil.” The way to get out of that darkness is to walk in the light and allow God to transform your heart. Forgive those who have hurt you, let go of bitterness and the need for revenge, stop thinking and ruminating about personal injustices. Rather, how can you be part of the solution and begin to open your heart to love.

We need a healed land and healed hearts. Yet, in my life time, we have moved completely away from national conversations that include the role of faith in a nation that was founded on faith in God.  Instead, we only discuss secular solutions that fall short and are incapable of changing a hateful person’s heart.

Only God changes hearts. Only God can take a terrorist like Saul and transform him to Paul who loved those he once hated. If we want to stop hate, we need God’s transforming power. And sadly, that’s not a message we rarely hear anywhere in the analysis of the problem of hate.

Living with hate

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