I don’t know many people who would admit to actually allowing themselves to actually hate another person.
They might say, “Well, I just don’t like THOSE people.” Or they may just keep it quiet in the confines of their own head space. But if we’re honest with ourselves, I think we’ll find that fear leads to some pretty nasty places toward other people here on earth. .
Take, for example, Michael Dunn in Jacksonville Florida who saw a Dodge Durango drive up next to his car parked in a convenience store parking lot. The Durango was full of African-American Teenagers playing their radio loud. Who knows why the kids were there, but somehow, during the course of the evening, the man took out a gun and shot up the car killing a young man just sitting in the Durango next to him. (Click Here for The Whole Story) The Trial lasted for a while before the jury announced they couldn’t decide if Michael Dunn should be incarcerated for Murder or not. But the fact that a young teenager died that night is a tragedy.
The court reported that Dunn asked them to turn the music down, and then through his testimony it was revealed he thought there was a gun in the car. When police showed up, there weren’t any firearms in the Durango with the African-American Teens, and there was a clear reason to wonder why this middle-aged man would pull a gun that led to a young man’s untimely death.
The question I often wonder as cases like Michael Dunn, now known as the Loud Music Case, or the George Zimmerman‘s epic trial of a neighborhood watch man who fatally shot Trayvon Martin in Sanford Florida is this: What Causes people to resort to violence and hatred?
Both men were found not guilty, but the facts remain: there are two dead teenagers at the hands of two grown men. What would cause people to pull out a gun and fire a weapon at an unarmed individual? In the case of Trayvon Martin, the young man was found to have a bag of Skittles and a cell phone in his pocket, NO GUN.
When the trial went down in the spring of 2014, it revealed that Trayvon was worried for his life as he watch Zimmerman follow him down the road. Calling Zimmerman a “cracker” showed Martin’s fear of the other as well.
Our Background Informs Us
I wonder if the fear of “the other” causes us to cycle through a human emotion of hatred.
How many times have you found yourself in a place where you looked across an aisle, saw someone who looked different at a gas station, or maybe you were riding the subway and someone got on the train causing you to look at them in a strange way?
Maybe they had a different color skin than you.
Maybe they dressed in a different way than you’re used to.
Maybe they smelled funny.
Maybe they had piercings or tattoos.
Maybe they wore a ‘strange’ religious outfit that didn’t seem to fit in the environment you know so well
If we’re honest, we all do this.
We like to think that we’re not fearful of other humans, but I find when people are willing to admit their inner feelings; we all have some group in our lives that causes us to fear. So when we find ourselves in a situation with ‘those’ people and we don’t know how to get out, the fear starts rising up to convince us something bad is going to happen. Survival kicks in, and all logic goes out the proverbial window.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the fear of Japanese caused Americans to spew vile language toward anyone who looked Japanese.
In the South during the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s, the fear of an African-Americans led people to commit dark human atrocities.
After 9-11, every time I got on an airplane, even I watched for the ‘would be terrorist’ who may take the plane and fly it into another building because all I saw on the news was the hatred causing ME to fear.
Why do we do this?
Is it the influence of media?
Is it the social norm built around us in our culture?
Is it a realistic fear that something might be different, or maybe there’s a real danger?
Do we have to set up a divide between people to justify our right-ness to the world?
It seems like, in the case of Dunn and Zimmerman, both men had an un-healthy background of African-American Teenagers they thought were going to terrorize their lives for some reason. Of course no one reading this blog would ever take out a gun and shoot someone else, but what of that feeling inside you when you begin to fear? Does it ever lead to the begins of hatred toward another person?
Fear and Hatred Usually Come From Deep Place of Pain
As I watch the latest outbreak of Middle East Violence, I’ve been thinking deeply and asking myself “WHY?” Why do so many people have to live in fear of being rocketed, tortured, or killed on either side of the conflict. Whether it’s ISIS running through Iraq and Syria or Israelis and Palestinians fighting, I’m just saddened as I see real people living in fear.
Last March, I took twenty people to Israel to trace the footsteps of Jesus.
We started in the North Part of Israel and began seeing where Jesus started His Ministry, we sat on the Mount of Beatitudes, took a boat ride on the sea of Galilee, and worked our way to Jerusalem where we visited the Holy Sites. The history in the country is absolutely astonishing. We think something is old here in America because it’s been around for 200 years, but in Bethlehem we had dinner in a home that was nearly 500 years old; and THAT WAS MODERN!!
I wanted to try and understand this place of hatred that makes the front pages of the newspapers, so once we got to Jerusalem we started to investigate what’s really going on in the lives of REAL people.
The first day, we walked with a Jewish tour guide who helped us understand what life was like living in and near the Old City of Jerusalem, and it was fascinating to hear about the immense amount of fear that many Jewish people hold on a daily basis. We walked through the Holocaust Museum and saw the pain up close and personal. So many people were displaced, tortured, and ultimately killed based on their ethnicity during the Third Reich, it’s no wonder why so many of my Jewish friends live in a worldview of fear. One Jewish Settler said, “In the history of the world, our people have always been on the receiving end of violence, and it’s time that we stood up for ourselves.” The pain they carry with them is real, as I heard stories from parents who recounted the stories of their parents and grandparents who escaped the concentration camps of the 1940’s.
And then I talked with Palestinians.
We ate with Palestinian families, hiked with Palestinian teenagers through the Herodian Valley, and listened to their stories. I’ll never forget sitting in a cave with 12 American Teenagers, and half a dozen Palestinian Christian teens when one 14 year old girl shared a fear she had inside her. “I just want people to know I’m not a terrorist.” My heart sunk.
The pain and sadness they expressed was as palpable as the pain of my Jewish friends couched in a different way, in a different time in history.
I found myself in a unique place to sense the pain of both sides of the issue we see on the news.
Smarter people than I have tried to process Peace in the Region, and I’m by no means an expert in understanding global conflict; but I was moved at the amount of fear and pain living in this small region of the world. The causes of the pain were horrific and real, and I saw hatred on both sides when that fear began to froth to the surface. It’s easy to cite the atrocities toward another community that causes this fear, and some may even try to dismiss the pain through a theological system; but the facts remain, pain is causing fear and hatred and the outcome is people die on both sides.
I know it’s not as easy to just pick one side over the other. That attitude just fuels the fear in our own heart.
But whether we talk about Global Conflict, Community Social conflict, or the Conflict we have in our own hearts; I wonder what the world might look like if we were willing to step out of the norm and adopt a Jesus Centric Worldview.
Jesus Changed Everything
Conflict was as much a part of Jesus’ world as it is here today. The Jewish nation was living under the occupation of the Romans who governed them. The Jewish leaders wanted to remain autonomous from the worldly behavior of the Romans. They wanted to worship One God as was written in the Torah, and the skirmishes between the dichotomous ways of living were the same. The Romans wanted to assert their authority and power to the Jews showing them that Caesar was a divinity, and the Jews were feeling the brunt of this power through human rights atrocities.
The Jews were afraid of the Roman Army.
The Roman Army was afraid of the Jewish Uprising.
The Fear lead to hatred and the violence between the two groups led to another specialized Jewish group called the Zealots. They were the one’s fighting for the rights of Jewish people under Roman Rule.
Obviously they didn’t have the same media we have today, but the word spread from home to home every time a Jewish family was accosted by a Roman.
This is the setting where Jesus becomes a RADICAL world changer, not the meek and mild character often represented in the modern Western Church today. The Jesus way was intense, hard, and counter intuitive to the conflict of the day. He said:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)
In one section he addressed fear, hatred, and violence. He employed the fact that God is the God of ALL people. He worked to reconcile people one on one. He asked people to resolve conflict, even before they worshipped at the local synagogue. (Matthew 5:21-26) It was almost as if Jesus was setting the stage for a new world, a new way of thinking, a new kingdom that caused people to re-think the way they fear. He didn’t say “you’re justified in your hate.” He didn’t give people permission to lash out at one another violently. He called people to ‘love their enemies and pray for them.’
The Jesus way is one that keeps fear and hatred at bay. Because when you begin to pray for and embody love toward another, it’s really hard to hate them.
The Jesus way is one of courage in the face of fear.
It takes a lot more energy, effort, and radical living to release the fear in our own hearts to live in harmony with others.
I believe if we are tired of the fear that controls us, we must begin looking for new ways of releasing that fear and conjure up the courage it takes to live outside the comfortable justification we know so well. It’s easy to say, “Well so and so did this, so I’m entitled to do _______________.” But what might happen if we begin looking at one another as humans created by God working through the same needs and desires, longing for the same freedom from the pain that plagues us?
Is it possible we may be able to give to those who persecute us?
Is it possible we might heap the coals of kindness on those we fear?
Even on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion he pleaded with God, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do?”
Here is a man who was being tortured beyond our imagination, but still held the principle of forgiving His enemies in the face of death.
I struggle with the last part of Matthew 5 where Jesus says, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Because so many times I feel like I have the right to hold on to my pain and fear. It defines me. It makes me who I am. But in order to follow Jesus, I need to look closely into the heart of my enemy and begin to understand Him as a human.
What do you think?
Am I alone in this one?