Love Peace; Hate War

…A time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.  Ecclesiastes 3:8.

 

 

I can hear the howls of consternation and offended sensibilities from many of my Portlandia friends and neighbors.  No one in their right mind would consider hate and war as having any virtue whatsoever.  But I don’t believe Solomon is giving them value as we think of it, instead he’s acknowledging they are sometimes unavoidable and even preferable in certain situations.

The difference between love and hate, war and peace, can be compared to mixing oil in water knowing they don’t blend with each other; or trying to get two South Pole magnets to attract each other.  Yet this is exactly what is happening in this statement of seeming polar opposites being in the same sentence.

For instance, I absolutely abhor violence against women or children and I have no tolerance for those who tolerate it either.  I don’t exactly hate these people who practice such things but I would fight them tooth and nail if they tried to legalize or justify such foolishness in my presence.  I also see no reason to tolerate dictators who use up the resources of their own country then attempt to take over another so they can rape and pillage it.  In this case, war is the only option.

I know, I know, it sounds like I’m justifying war—and you’re right, I am.  I hate starvation and all its causes.  I hate political systems which exist to serve themselves rather than the people they are supposed to represent.  I believe war is preferable over slavery.  I would rather go to war than be under the rule of a dictatorship which attempted to rule my conscience.

Oh, and did I mention I hate war?

I love-love, hate-hate, love-peace, hate-war.  I am willing to go by the name Christian precisely because I hate the misery of death, disease, war and hate.  The timeliness of each is important.  I don’t go around bombing funeral homes as part of my protest against death and disease.  I don’t live a negative existence just because I’m angry at what these things do to our world.  Instead I’ve chosen to think about a possible reason they exist and the solution to them.

Jesus commanded us,  “Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you…”  His instructions sounds like He’s talking out of both sides of His mouth if you consider that He’s the One who dictated the OT to the prophets and scribes.  If this latter statement is true, then it makes His command to be peaceful that much more confusing for some.  It’s like a dichotomy that won’t go away unless we give into the Spirit of Truth.

You see, God used a lot of methods in the past that didn’t work—not because they weren’t effective, but due to the dual nature of the human race.  He wasn’t and isn’t defeated by our nature, though, that’s not what I’m implying here; rather His attempts to provide a safe place through war with the nations in Canaan came up short because Israel chose another path.  The same could be said of us with both His Word and will.

Jesus started off saying,  “You have heard it said,  ‘Love your friends and hate your enemies,’ but I tell you, Love your enemies.”  His reference isn’t to the law which never told the Hebrews to hate their enemies and love only their countrymen, but to a common practice among humans in general.  The law never told anyone to hate their neighbors instead it instructed them to do good to the foreigners and strangers.  I’ve often wondered why God allowed slavery in the OT and basically struck it down in the NT.  As I pondered (such an intellectual word, huh) this it came to me that in that era and society the only way one could guarantee conformity was subjugation.  The Israelites could own slaves from other nations but they couldn’t enslave one of their own.  This set it up so that the foreigner had to be involved in the household traditions, and if the family practiced the law, the slave would be affected by the atmosphere of the house—and hopefully not the other way around.

Unfortunately, it never worked out that way because Israel, like most of us, found the exotic nature of the gods and goddesses of the nations around them alluring and enticing.  It’s hard not to see God’s allowance for slavery as inconsistent but the perspective of maturity must constantly recognize the need to compromise with even the worst options.  I don’t like slavery nor will I condone it, so I’m not justifying it even now, rather the intention is to show God’s handling of the cards He had to play with—sin in the mix creates an imperfect dynamic.  We created the scenario through choosing to live without Him, as a counter move He comes back with a deal to rescue the relationship.

So how do we relate this flat lining statement about love and hate?

Timing is everything.  I don’t have to hate anyone but I can hate what they do, what they’ve become through bad choices, the results of those choices on others in their world.  I can hate and love at the same time.  I’ve heard of studies which suggest that even saying the word “hate” brings up negative responses in our bodies—blood pressure rising, anxiety, things like that.  If this is true, we weren’t built for sustained hate because it will kill us; however, if we hate something, then to acknowledge and express it is about choosing the right place and time not avoiding the truth.  In the meantime, burying the emotion as undesirable is not a healthy response to it.  The best way to handle any of these negative emotions is to set them aside as realities rather than denying they exist—putting them in a box of our own making, sidelined like a player in the game the coach must bench.

I’ve spent a lot of time on the word “hate” here because we don’t deal with it enough—or may it’s just me.  I don’t like the emotion or the word.  Most of the people who practice hate do so in such a destructive and counter productive manner that I want to avoid it altogether.   But that’s the point.  Try another subject as an example:  Just because someone can’t handle marriage in a healthy way isn’t a reason to destroy the institution or deny the need for it.  Again, just because someone uses war as a means of stripping another country of its wealth isn’t a reason to forego war to protect the invaded; instead I see it as a warning not to repeat the evil.  I can hate the sin without hating the sinner.  Hating the sinner dehumanizes them without quarter; hating the sin acknowledges the act as “hateful” without suggesting the person who perpetrated the act or attitude is irredeemable.  The thief on the cross cries out against those who would condemn the most sinful as irredeemable.

War is necessary when the rights, freedoms and lives of other people are at stake.  We don’t need to go into the enemy camp and cut them down to a man, instead by showing mercy, grace and a willingness to restore them we demonstrate the higher calling of love.  Hate what is evil, cling to what is good; again, war on warmongers in order to protect the helpless.  In this way we use war as a response to an extreme evil rather than a preferred method of dealing with every problem.  When the perpetrators are subdued, it is time for peace to weigh in and take over.

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2 Responses to “Love Peace; Hate War”

  1. tlc4women Says:

    Great point, hate what is evil, not who, and cling to what is good, since there is none good but God, our marching orders are pretty clear.

  2. jonnysoundsketch2 Says:

    Yup

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