You’ve seen it happen. Maybe you even had it happen to you. You express a viewpoint on something that others disagree on. Maybe this happens in a Facebook post or on Twitter. Maybe you say something to a friend or a family member. You are then canceled out by someone who disagrees with you. A lot of anger comes out, some choice words, and then you are un-friended either online or in reality.
This needs to end.
Let me be clear: I am not suggesting we all just stop believing in things or having opinions. Even if that were possible, a world where nobody believes or stands up for anything is no place to live. I am simply saying, it’s time we stop declaring each other enemies because we disagree. We must find a way to disagree and not hate.
I’ll suggest a word that itself has proved divisive: tolerance. Some think this word to be politically correct oppression. Others demand it mean you remove all beliefs and speech that may offend another. Let me give a new definition: agreeable disagreement.
Tolerance doesn’t mean we have to agree. It doesn’t even mean we have to remain silent if one person’s thinking offends the other. Tolerance means that two people don’t hate or mistreat each other based on their varying beliefs.
Only Love can Defeat Hate
If you have ever canceled someone out or removed them from your life because of their viewpoints, you are probably saying right now, “But what if this person has just plain hateful beliefs and viewpoints?”
I’ll quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who was murdered by such hateful people but taught this, “Hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil, and inject within the very structure of the universe that strong and powerful element of love.”
Jesus, who was also murdered by people with hateful viewpoints, said it in even simpler language when he said, “Love your enemies.”
A person with hateful viewpoints will not be dissuaded away from them by you cutting them out. Such an act only intensifies and supports their viewpoint that people like you are the truly hateful types, the ones who withhold love. The only way to prove that you are not hateful is to love.
The Bible describes God’s reaction to a hateful world this way when it says, “While we were yet enemies, Christ died for us.”
Loving a Hater
So how do you love a hater? Maybe they express their otherwise tolerable beliefs in hateful ways or maybe their beliefs are just innately hateful. How do you love a person like this?
Let’s address an instinct we all have when we hear offensive beliefs, these beliefs that make us want to cancel someone out. Whenever we hear such beliefs we all have a natural instinct to fight it. You hear hate and want to beat it down, to argue it, and defeat it. We don’t always do that, of course, but all of us walk away from those kinds of conversations and later come up with one heck of a come back. Some will actually speak out loud that comeback, others keep it internal, but we all have that instinct of a come back.
Because it is right to defeat hate. Our instincts confirm this. I am here only to challenge the way we go about that fight. We must find better ways to combat hate than through nasty language, social media shunning, or outright hate.
If your instinct is to cut people out, to cancel them, when they disagree with you, you are adding to the existence of hate in the universe. Let’s look at how Jesus faced down evil in his day and apply it to our modern life.
- Make the First Move- The Bible teaches that while the world was all still an enemy, Jesus died for that enemy. He made the first move. He knew some would still reject him, some would still hate, but also that some would be convinced out of hate by a supreme act of love. He demonstrated that the best way to defeat a hateful system of beliefs is by demonstrating an act of love. I’m reminded of one of our own stories HERE where an african-american parole officer wins over a Neo-Nazi white supremacist by an act of love.
- Speak Truth, with Love- Jesus never shied from the truth. He said a lot of bold things in his days. But he was able to do it while still expressing love. In practical terms this meant that when Nicodemus (someone that held beliefs that Jesus spent a lot of time teaching against) came to him with some honest questions, he answered them with gentleness. And he offered a path of reconciliation. Would you be more tempted to gloat or be gracious if your "enemy" came to you expressing some willingness to consider your viewpoint?
- Wish the Other Well- In Jesus’ final moments while he hung on a cross being tortured to death, he looked down at his torturers and prayed, “God forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” He could have said many things in those moments. I know I would have said a few things. But he chose to ask for their forgiveness. He chose to seek and hope for what would do them well, and not do them harm. Do you need to do a serious heart check to see if you wish your enemies well?
The next time you are tempted to cancel someone out, to hate the hater, I hope you will remember the example set by Jesus and choose to love instead.