[by Tara Jane]
I’m not sure when I started hating her, but it was fairly early on and it escalated quickly. There was something about her look that infuriated me, but I could never look away. Why did she have to wear that unflattering, aesthetically displeasing shirt? The way she did her hair made me want to tug mine out in frustration. I couldn’t stand her face.
I didn’t know her name. I had never spoken to her. I had only ever seen her across the room, or occasionally I would see her on the street and in crowds. But each time she showed up, my jaw clenched.
I knew this was the wrong way to feel.
I tried to be rational. What had she done to me? Nothing. What was she planning on doing to me? Nothing, because she had no idea that I existed.
So I tried to be kinder towards her, in my head of course. I tried to find things about her that I liked, to make up for all of the things I didn’t. I tried to think of nice things first, rather than jump to the satisfying list of awful things about her. Because although it’s horrible, it’s how we are wired, isn’t it? To tear others down, just to make ourselves feel better. To search for the shame in others, so that we don’t have to face our own. To find their flaws in order to forget the ones we fear in ourselves.
And then I heard her speak.
I wish I’d never heard her. I was hoping with all my might that she might speak and that I would feel rebuked. But instead of quenching the fire, she tipped diesel over it and let the flames dance sky high. Because nothing makes you feel satisfied or superior like realising that you were right. She turned out to be the ungrateful and irritating person I had hoped for all along and I was delighted.
Now my complaints to people about her were justified. My intolerance was reasonable. “How could anyone be so immature and think these things?” I could tell my friends. How could anyone speak these sorts of words and be a logical, reasonable person?
I was so proud of myself.
And then I found her blog.
And because it’s so easy to become an obsessive stalker, I read every post. I carefully navigated posts that were over four years old, trying not to accidentally hit the like buttons. It took me almost a week to go back through the entries, years of stories, photos, and information. And it took God less than a week to completely put me in my place.
God taught me that I’m no different to her.
We are both made in his image, and he loves us both dearly. We have a lot in common, but more important than the common interests, we both have struggles. We have both faced different challenges, and our experiences have influenced how we see the world.
God showed me how much she has struggled and how much she has survived.
God showed me that she too, is a daughter of the King. She is a fellow citizen of God’s kingdom. She is loved by God, and therefore should be loved by me.
Who am I to hate? How dare I hate. I had allowed hatred to make a home in my heart.
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
1 John 2:9-11
Jesus loves people. He loves his enemies, people who hate him. He loves them, he loves us so much that he gave his own life for us. Anyone who claims to know Jesus, claims to have him as their Lord and Saviour – their life needs to be changed by him.
How can anyone who truly understands what it is to receive forgiveness from the Christ harbor a grudge against another? How can anyone who has experienced the love of Jesus harbor hatred against another person?
Hate and love cannot coexist. Perfect love drives out all hate. If Jesus Christ claims ownership of my life, my being, my heart, then there is no room for hatred to make a home.
I am the hypocrite. I am the one who in the very same breath claims to know the love of Christ and boasts about the hatred of another. How can I encourage others to turn away from the hate I embrace? How can I instruct others to speak words of kindness when mine are anything but? How can I teach humility when I am drenched in the stench of pride and arrogance?
This girl, the one whom I hated, the one whom I never met – she was not foolish and immature, I was. Every thought I had about her was true of myself. Every judgement of her character was an accurate insight into my own. Every criticism of her should have been said of me.
The cross of Christ will always do two things. Firstly, it will always help us to feel the enormous gravity of the seriousness of our own sin. As I wrestled with my own thoughts, the weight of my sin and the grief of God thundered over me like roaring waves.
But secondly, the cross of Christ demonstrates how wonderful beyond comprehension God’s love is. He pursued me, knowing me intimately. Jesus died for me, knowing the evils in the depths of my heart. Jesus nailed my sins and my hatred to the cross and took them away, knowing that I did not deserve this to be so. In the words of John Stott, “it takes a hard and stony heart to remain unmoved by love like that.” It’s more than love, it’s grace.
And in this grace of God, not only did he take away my sins, not only did he erase every offensive thought as though it were marker on a whiteboard or a message not yet sent, he helped me to see how I am just like her, and she is just like me, and how we both need Jesus.