“For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (Titus 3:3 NKJV).
The feuding mentality is alien to some, but seems to come naturally to many. What enables certain families, clans, or ethnicities to pass on hatred and enmity through multiple generations? From the warring tribes of Africa, the feuding families of Appalachia, and the clans of the Scottish Highlands, some ancient grudges have lasted for hundreds and even thousands of years. And some seem to be just as intense and fierce as they have ever been.
Many westerners wonder why it seems to be so easy for ISIS or Al-Qaeda to recruit new fighters, even those of non-Islamic or non-Arabic origins. The easy answer is that they have learned how to tune into hatred. By focusing upon an innate predilection towards malice, envy, and resentment they point the gullible towards a target with powerful motives to harm and destroy.
Modern leaders seek to solve this issue by battling the root causes of these negative emotions. Logically they reason that if a society could remove poverty, social discrimination, and other such evils there would be no reason for one person to hate others. If all were economically and politically equal there would be no reason for any to be envious of anyone else. The problem with that logic is that those evils have proven throughout history to be beyond human power to solve. Poverty, inequality, and injustice abound today just as they always have.
But the inspired Apostle Paul taught another, better answer; one that will indeed remove hatred from all who will accept it.
“But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5-6).
In personal interactions, kindness is reciprocal. If someone is kind to us, we have the impulse to return that kindness to them. But if someone abuses or mistreats us, we think immediately of revenge and repayment. Jesus taught the golden rule, but our worldly instinct is just the opposite — “Do unto others as they have done unto you.”
But God in his grace and love has extended kindness towards sinful humanity, not vengeance. In spite of our prideful rebellion, our self-worship and ingratitude, he continues to send abundant blessings of life. And beyond all else he has provided the only means of pardon for our sins, and healing from the disease of sin.
“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love toward us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).
In both texts quoted in this article Paul stresses that God’s kindness was given to those who were truly unworthy of it; to those whose nature made it difficult for anyone to respond positively towards them.
Human kindness is all too often responsive – if we treat someone well it is because they have already done something good for us. God, however, acted proactively to solve the world’s sinfulness. He loved us while we were most unlovable. He was good to us while we were being enemies to him.
The answer to the hatred of terrorists and villains is not to “bomb them into annihilation.” Rather, it is to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). No, kindness will not turn every fanatic into a pacifist. But neither will returning evil for evil. God has shown us the way. “Let us love one another, for love is of God” (1 John 4:7).