Love comes naturally - hate is learned. We have probably seen this posted a few times in our Facebook feed, or on the local church sign in our neighborhoods. It comes from the words of Nelson Mandela. Here it is in context: "No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite." Some take issue with the idea of "learning" to love, because they think hatred is what comes naturally to a man or woman. I think just the opposite is true - as we are all born in the image of our God and hatred is not the "natural" thing within his heart (unless it is hatred of sin)!
For God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life. Here’s the point. God didn’t send His Son into the world to judge it; instead, He is here to rescue a world headed toward certain destruction. (John 3:16-17 VOICE)
God's heart is one of love toward the world he created - and we are part of that world! In turn, he gave his only son so that whoever (that means you and me) believes in him (not in their own goodness or ability to live right) will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life. It seems to me the idea of destruction awaiting each of us pretty much declares the "reason" we cannot count on our own ability to live as we should 100% of the time. We just don't overcome the draw toward things which are not always the kindest, most uplifting, or considerate of others all in our own ability. Yes, we were given both the ability to love and hate - but we all know we are given abilities in a number of ways which we may not use to the fullest! I took guitar lessons as a kid, but I don't play guitar today - proof that ability doesn't mean we will pursue a lifestyle!
It is important to not exclude the rest of the passage when we stop to consider God's love - his mission in life is not to "judge us", but to rescue us from the "mission" we have in life to live by our own agenda, giving into the desire to focus on self and less on others. Some may think they need no rescue from the lifestyle they have chosen, but God declares otherwise, not only in word, but in the very action he took on our behalf - that of sending his son to be the one to restore love, peace, and hope to the center of our lives! When we live with self at the center, we become a little too egocentric. In other words, we think about what makes us happy, gives us enjoyment, puts us before others, and sets us apart from others as a little more important. Maybe this is how hatred begins to take root, my friends. When we think someone will affect our happiness, interfere with our enjoyment of life, or just ask something of us we are not too delighted to give, we might just begin to set up thoughts of hatred toward that other person.
We don't flourish in a place of hostility toward one another - we tear that place down and leave damage beyond belief. Hatred causes us to alienate others - because we see ourselves as different, maybe "more special" than another. Love helps us to embrace others and bring them close to our hearts - because we focus more on the similarities within each of us than we do the differences. I can think of no other blessing we could receive this Christmas day than that of God's love. I can think of no other blessing we could "give" today than that of his love expressed through us to those he has placed in our lives today!
God's heart is one of love - given freely, without remorse or regret. His love is received by a heart opened to him; it is equally given by a heart yielded to him. Maybe it is past time we lay down our weapons of hatred by making Christ the center of our lives and see how much his love begins to replace the hatred we have allowed to grow. Just sayin! Merry Christmas!