This blog signals a new start on this site: it will provide short, punchy articles dealing with basic issues for people who are followers of Jesus. The first series of blogs will look at what sort of activities are ruled out by a genuine commitment to the way of Jesus.
There may not be more hatred in the world today than ever before but there has been certainly more hatred expressed in public over the last two decades than before. This is largely due to electronic social networks being available to a majority of the population of the world. Even in places of severe deprivation, for example, many people make use of the internet. On any matter of public interest, hatred will certainly be expressed; and on some matters the volume and violence of expressed hatred is truly horrific.
If we add to the amount of hatred expressed about public issues the amount generated by individual preference, life – style and appearance – the arena of so-called trolls- we can understand that many users of social media report that hate-speech is a permanent presence in their lives. This may explain why the expression of hatred seems more and more accepted in work-places, leisure facilities and public gatherings.
Even if you think you are standing up for Christian values, for example, opposition to current abortion laws, your expression of hatred invalidates your claim to be Christian: hate-speech is utterly foreign to the teaching and practice of Jesus. Any follower of Jesus who expresses hatred must view it as an evil from which he needs to turn.
Of course there is a difference between people whose hatred is towards those who question their privilege and people whose hatred is towards their persecutors. Surely I should make an exception for the latter group, the Tibetans oppressed by the Chinese state, say, or the women bullied by their male partners? The example of Jesus, who was oppressed and bullied, but did not give way to hatred, suggests otherwise. He opposed oppressors and bullies but he did not hate them or seek to arouse hatred towards them from others.
Anger is different from hatred: it protests against injustice and hopes to change it; whereas hatred is directed against people and hopes to diminish or destroy them. Anger may sometimes promote the way of Jesus although it should be expressed carefully, but hatred never does. In a culture such as ours, followers of Jesus must practice respect, understanding, wisdom, humour and forbearance in both personal and public communication, in the hope of creating enclaves of peace where people can listen to each other.