Loving the People You Love to Hate

by Jared C. Wilson June 26, 2017

In the midst of my umpteenth re-reading of C. S. Lewis’s classic Mere Christianity, I came across the passage excerpted below and found it holding new resonance. Apply what Lewis is explicating below to any of the following:

  • Gossip
  • Church conflict
  • Relational jealousy
  • Sharing of news stories that confirms our suspicions about people on the other end of the political or cultural spectrum
  • The language that is used in clickbait links, soundbite videos, mocking memes, and exposé blog posts. We don’t say someone is “critiqued” or their ideas “debunked;” we say they were “destroyed,” “owned,” and so on. We use the language of humiliation or violence.

Here’s how you know if you hate something someone has done or if you actually hate that person, according to Lewis:

The real test is this. Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, “Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,” or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything--God and our friends and ourselves included--as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.

How about you? Is your hatred fed by confirmation bias? Do you dismiss correction of your critique because the corrections don’t fit your narrative?

Do you love to hate somebody? Do you hope for their failure and inwardly delight when it comes? Do you have the slightest inkling that your desire for justice has bled into desire for vengeance?

And if so: do you find any of that commensurate with loving your neighbor?

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
-- 1 Corinthians 13:7