We all have people that, for one reason or another, we just don’t like. It could be someone we work with, someone that we go to school with, or someone in our neighborhood. It could even be someone that we don’t know personally, someone in the public eye. It may not be an individual person, but an entire people group. What is the reason that we don’t like this person or people group?
Reputable sources in the field of psychology suggest that jealousy, fear and conflicting values are some reasons we dislike others. In the case of fear and jealousy, our own inadequacies are stirred by the other person. We see someone who has the same talent and abilities as we do, and we feel threatened. We see others succeeding where we are falling short, and we become envious of their success. We might also look negatively toward groups of people who have values or a worldview that is different than our own. Consequently, we may have negative feelings towards anyone who is a part of this particular group.
On a more personal level, it is suggested that we tend to dislike people who have different behavioral styles than we do. Our behavioral styles are the ways that we approach life in general. For instance, some people approach situations head on. They don’t wait; they deal with any problems as they come. On the other hand, there are some who are more analytical. Their approach to a situation is done with a slower line of attack. This type of person looks at all the angles before they act. They figure their way to the finish before they get started. If you put these two different types of people together, the result may be a constant state of conflict. The straightforward person sees the more analytical person as slow, wasting time, perhaps lazy in some cases. Conversely, the analytical person sees the straightforward person as impulsive, pushy, maybe even a little too demanding. Instead of recognizing the difference in behavioral styles, we tend to make judgments upon the person. In either case, the job will still get done, but we can easily become intolerant.
Admittedly, we tend to overlook that regardless of how we feel about the other person, Jesus loves them. Jesus loves each of us so much that He taught and demonstrated how we are to relate to each other. He knew that we won’t always get along with one another, especially if we are left to our own devices.
Jesus taught us to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us. He even told us to pray for those who curse and mistreat us. Let’s be honest: These teachings are hard to put into practice. Thankfully, Jesus didn’t simply tell us what to do, He demonstrated it. This caused a lot of problems for Him, in fact. People anticipated certain actions to come from their Messiah. They expected Jesus to feel the same and to treat people they disliked with the same contempt.
Take for instance the time Jesus came into Jericho on His way to Jerusalem. There was a chief tax collector, Zacchaeus, who wanted to see Jesus. Zacchaeus was one of the most despised men in the town of Jericho. He made his living by collecting taxes for the Roman government and lining his pockets by collecting more than they owed. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector, which means he had other tax collectors who worked for him. The people that he lived among had very good reason to dislike him, and they most certainly did.
Zacchaeus was very short, and with the way people felt about him, it’s easy to believe that they probably intentionally blocked his view. So, Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore-fig tree. Instead of passing by, ignoring Zacchaeus, or even going so far as hurling insults at him, Jesus called Zacchaeus down from the tree. He told Zacchaeus that He needed to stay at Zacchaeus’ house that night! This did not please the crowds that came out to greet Jesus.
Still, Jesus went home with Zacchaeus, and this meant much more than simply food and lodging. It meant was that Jesus was associating Himself with this “sinner.” This was not the type of person that Jesus should have been associating Himself with, so the people thought. The truth is, Jesus loved Zacchaeus just as much as He loved everyone else there.
The love that Jesus showed Zacchaeus did a miraculous thing: Zacchaeus turned his life around. This man was corrupt and was hated by the people. I’m sure the feeling was mutual. Yet, he told Jesus he was going to give half of all his possessions to the poor from that point forward. And he didn’t stop there. He also said he was going to pay back four times what he owed anyone that he has cheated in the past. This could have been a very extensive list! (Paying back four times is in line with God’s law that He gave to Moses.)
It was Jesus’ show of love instead of contempt that turned Zacchaeus to repentance. It was Jesus’ love that brought salvation to Zacchaeus house that day. When we show our dislike towards others, all we are going to breed is more dislike. Jesus demonstrated that love will breed love if we allow it. Now, not everyone may react the way that Zacchaeus did, but chances are they will not react in a loving way towards our hatred and contempt (at least not without the influence of the Spirit of God).
The next time that you are tempted to make the decision (and it is a decision) to hate on someone, remember that Jesus loves them. Recollect that Jesus has called us to show love and kindness towards one another. Recall that it is Jesus’ love that we are to show to others. We may be justified in our feeling of negativity towards others, but this will not change them. Contempt will never bring them to repentance, and it will never lead them to salvation. What it will do is the very opposite.
Regardless of how a person or persons may have mistreated you, regardless of the lifestyle they lead that you may not approve of, no matter how vile of a person or people they may be, remember Jesus loves them too. He loves them just as much as He loves you. He died for their sins, just as He died for yours. It is His love that will bring them to repentance and salvation. Let His love shine through you. Amen.