Love or Hate?
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'You shall not hate your brother in your heart. . . . 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." (Lev. 19:17-18)
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." (Matt. 5:43-45)
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In a recently published anthology of prayers and essays entitled A Rhythm of Prayer: A Collection of Meditations for Renewal (Sarah Bessey, editor), author Chanequa Walker-Barnes penned a "Prayer of a Weary Black Woman." The prayer opens with the following lines:
"Dear God, please help me to hate white people, or at least to want to hate them. At least, I want to stop caring about them, individually and collectively. I want to stop caring about their misguided, racist souls, to stop believing that they can be better, that they can stop being racist."
Later in the prayer, the author begs God to:
"Stop me from striving to see the best in people. Stop me from being hopeful that White people can do and be better. . . . Grant me a Get Out of Judgment Free card if I make White people the exception to your command to love our neighbors as we love ourselves."
Predictably, this prayer has sparked a storm of controversy. Defenders of Walker-Barnes argue that the targets of her rage are only racist whites, not good progressive whites. But even allowing that distinction, the sentiment expressed in this prayer is impossible to square with the spirit of God expressed in both the Old and New Testaments.
What sets Judeo-Christian ethics apart from the rest of the world is its insistence on unconditional love toward all humanity, including our enemies. That spirit reached its zenith in the person of Jesus Christ, who wept over those who screamed for His blood, then offered Himself as a sacrifice for their poisoned hearts. His final words, "Father, forgive them," revealed a love that transcended all the malice the world could hurl at Him.
Too many of us claim our own exceptions to God's command to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, thus prolonging the misery in which humanity has long been mired. Has the world not seen enough hatred already, that we must pile on even more? It's time for people of all races and ethnicities to stand up and say "Enough! The hate stops with me!"
When we are victims of injustice, we have a simple choice to make. Shall we respond in kind, and thus perpetuate the cycle of vengeance and destruction? Or shall we respond as our Savior did, with unconditional love and forgiveness?
If we call God our Father, we know what the correct response should be. Let's show the world how it's done.