Is it just me or does violent hatred seem to be on the rise? Why is it that certain topics cause such venomous passions to rise to the surface and burst into brutal attacks? Two of the hot buttons of vicious responses include race and religion. I am saddened by the deaths and injuries caused by such hatred and injustice. I grieve for the families who have been impacted by such animosity.

As an Orthodox Christian, I find these attacks abhorrent. Orthodox Christians are not ignorant to such attacks. We have been persecuted from the beginning. This is the response to our faith that Christ told us to expect. “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:18, 20). The question that remains is how are we to respond to such hatred? According to Christ, we are to be happy and rejoice:

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

What a strange response! How can we be happy when we are hated, persecuted, attacked and even murdered? Unbelievably, Christ taught us to love our enemies and pray for them. Love is the proper response to hatred in all circumstances. Yes, I know it seems impossible, especially if we have personally experienced this hatred, but with Christ, nothing is impossible. If we allow the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts, the only possible response is love. As Christians, we are asked to act in humility with mercy and forgiveness for all, no matter what. We cannot help but be grieved by those who do not know the love of God. We have compassion on those who do not know God’s infinite love.

The worst thing we can do is to respond in anger. Hatred toward us is meant to create hatred in us. We cannot allow others’ hatred to fill our hearts. God said, “Be angry, but do not sin…and do not make room for the devil” (Ephesians 4:26, 27). Anger, acted upon, can easily become hatred. All of the political correctness and tolerance in the world, taught in our culture, is impossible without genuine love for our fellow human beings. This is what Christ taught. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (John 4:8).

Let us follow the example of the Coptic Orthodox who suffered at least two attacks on their community. "Likely the first to die in the blast, Faheem saved the lives of dozens inside the church. ‘I’m not angry at the one who did this,’ said his wife, children by her side. ‘I’m telling him, May God forgive you, and we also forgive you. Believe me, we forgive you. You put my husband in a place I couldn’t have dreamed of’” (http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2017/april/forgiveness-muslims-moved-coptic-christians-egypt-isis.html). Let us follow the example of the mourners in Charleston who suffered an attack on their church during a Bible study where nine were murdered. “I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you and have mercy on your soul,” said daughter of 70-year-old Ethel Lance (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/families-show-forgiveness-for-alleged-church-shooter/). Let us follow Christ's example when He forgave His executioners, while still dying on the cross. Only when we forgive can our own hearts be emptied of hatred and bitterness. Only when we forgive can we show love toward our fellow human beings, even when they hate us. 

© 2017  Helen Kamenos  All rights reserved

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