An End to Hatred Worldwide
SOME two thousand years ago, a minority group was the butt of hatred. Tertullian explains the prevailing Roman attitude toward the early Christians: “If the heavens give no rain, if there is an earthquake, if there is famine or pestilence, straightway the cry is, ‘Away with the Christians to the lion!’”
Despite being objects of hatred, early Christians resisted the temptation to avenge the injustice. In his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ said: “You heard that it was said, ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ However, I say to you: Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you.”—Matthew 5:43, 44.
It was the oral tradition of the Jews that held that ‘hating an enemy’ was the right thing to do. Jesus, however, said we must love our enemy, not just our friend. This is difficult but not impossible. Loving an enemy does not mean liking all his ways or his deeds. The Greek word found in Matthew’s account is derived from a·gaʹpe, which describes a love that acts in harmony with principle. The person who manifests a·gaʹpe, principled love, does good even to an enemy who hates and mistreats him. Why? Because it is the way to imitate Christ, and it is the way to conquer hatred. One Greek scholar noted: “[A·gaʹpe] enables us to conquer our natural tendency to anger and to bitterness.” But will this work in today’s hate-filled world?
Admittedly, not all who claim to be Christian are resolved to follow Christ’s example. The recent atrocities in Rwanda were carried out by ethnic groups, many of whose members profess to be Christians. Pilar Díez Espelosín, a Roman Catholic nun who has worked in Rwanda for 20 years, recounted one telling incident. A man approached her church wielding a lance that he had obviously been using. The nun asked him: “What are you doing going around killing people? Don’t you think about Christ?” He claimed that he did and proceeded to enter the church, kneel down, and recite the Rosary fervently. But when he finished, off he went to continue killing. “It shows that we are not teaching the gospel properly,” the nun admitted. Such failures, however, do not mean that Jesus’ message is deficient. Hatred can be conquered by those who practice true Christianity.
Conquering Hatred in a Concentration Camp
Max Liebster is a natural Jew who lived through the Holocaust. Although his surname means “beloved,” he has seen more than his share of hatred. He describes what he learned in Nazi Germany about love and hate.
“I was brought up near Mannheim, Germany, during the 1930’s. Hitler claimed that all the Jews were rich profiteers who were exploiting the German people. But the truth is that my father was just a humble shoemaker. Nevertheless, because of the influence of Nazi propaganda, neighbors began turning against us. When I was a teenager, a villager forcibly smeared pig’s blood on my forehead. This gross insult was only a taste of what was to come. In 1939 the Gestapo arrested me and confiscated all my belongings.
“From January 1940 until May 1945, I struggled to survive in five different concentration camps: Sachsenhausen, Neuengamme, Auschwitz, Buna, and Buchenwald. My father, who was also sent to Sachsenhausen, died during the terrible winter of 1940. I personally carried his corpse to the crematorium, where a heap of dead bodies lay waiting to be burned. In all, eight of my family died in the camps.
“The kapos were hated among the prisoners even more than the SS guards. The kapos were prisoners who cooperated with the SS and so enjoyed certain favors. They were put in charge of food distribution, and they also administered lashings to other prisoners. Often they acted unfairly and arbitrarily. I suppose I had more than enough reason to hate both the SS and the kapos, but during my imprisonment, I learned that love is more powerful than hatred.
“The fortitude of prisoners who were Jehovah’s Witnesses convinced me that their faith was based on the Scriptures—and I became a Witness myself. Ernst Wauer, a Witness I met in the Neuengamme concentration camp, urged me to cultivate the mental attitude of Christ. The Bible says that ‘when he was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously.’ (1 Peter 2:23) I tried to do the same, to leave vengeance in the hands of God, who is the Judge of all.
“My years in the camps taught me that people often do evil things out of ignorance. Not even all the SS guards were bad—there was one who saved my life. I once suffered an acute attack of diarrhea and was too weak to walk from my work to the camp. I should have been sent to the gas ovens of Auschwitz the following morning, but an SS guard, who came from the same region of Germany as I did, intervened in my behalf. He got me work in the SS cafeteria, where I was able to get some rest until I recovered. One day he confessed to me: ‘Max, I feel I am on a train that is traveling at high speed and out of control. If I jump off, I will be killed. If I stay on, I will crash!’
“These people needed love as much as I did. In fact, it was love and compassion, along with my faith in God, that enabled me to cope with the wretched conditions and the daily threat of execution. I can’t say that I survived unscathed, but my emotional scars were minimal.”
The warmth and kindness that Max still radiates 50 years later is eloquent testimony to the truth of his words. Max’s case is not an isolated one. He had a solid reason to overcome hatred—he wanted to imitate Christ. Others whose lives have been guided by the Scriptures have acted in a similar way. Simone, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses from France, explains how she learned what unselfish love really means.
“My mother, Emma, who became a Witness shortly before the second world war, taught me that people often do bad things because they do not know any better. She explained that if we hate them in return, we are not true Christians, since Jesus said we should love our enemies and pray for those persecuting us.—Matthew 5:44.
“I remember an extreme situation that put this conviction to the test. During the Nazi occupation of France, Mother suffered a lot at the hands of a neighbor in our building. She reported Mother to the Gestapo, and as a result, my mother spent two years in German concentration camps, where she nearly died. After the war, the French police wanted Mother to sign a paper incriminating this woman as a German collaborator. But my mother refused, saying that ‘God is the Judge and the Rewarder of good and evil.’ A few years later, this same neighbor became ill with terminal cancer. Rather than gloat over her misfortune, my mother spent many hours making the last months of her life as comfortable as possible. I will never forget this triumph of love over hate.”
These two examples illustrate the power of principled love in the face of injustice. However, the Bible itself says that there is “a time to love and a time to hate.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 8) How can that be?
A Time to Hate
God does not condemn all hatred. Regarding Jesus Christ, the Bible says: “You loved righteousness, and you hated lawlessness.” (Hebrews 1:9) There is a difference, however, between hating the wrong and hating the person who commits the wrong.
Jesus exemplified the proper balance between love and hate. He hated hypocrisy, but he tried to help hypocrites change their way of thinking. (Matthew 23:27, 28; Luke 7:36-50) He condemned violence, but he prayed for those who executed him. (Matthew 26:52; Luke 23:34) And although the world hated him without cause, he gave up his own life in order to give life to the world. (John 6:33, 51; 15:18, 25) He left us a perfect example of principled love and godly hate.
Injustice may arouse moral indignation in us, as it did in Jesus. (Luke 19:45, 46) Christians, however, are not authorized to take vengeance into their own hands. “Return evil for evil to no one,” Paul counseled the Christians in Rome. “If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men. Do not avenge yourselves . . . Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.” (Romans 12:17-21) When we personally refuse to harbor hatred or to avenge a wrong, love gains the victory.
A World Without Hatred
For hatred to disappear on a worldwide scale, the entrenched attitudes of millions of people must change. How can this be achieved? Professor Ervin Staub makes the following recommendation: “We devalue those we harm and value those we help. As we come to value more highly the people we help and experience the satisfactions inherent in helping, we also come to see ourselves as more caring and helpful. One of our goals must be to create societies in which there is the widest possible participation in doing for others.”—The Roots of Evil.
In other words, the banishing of hatred requires the creation of a society in which people learn to love by helping one another, a society where people forget all the animosity caused by prejudice, nationalism, racism, and tribalism. Does such a society exist? Consider the experience of a man who faced hatred firsthand during the Cultural Revolution in China.
“When the Cultural Revolution began, we were taught that there was no room for compromise in the ‘class struggle.’ Hatred was the prevailing tendency. I became a Red Guard and began searching everywhere for ‘class enemies’—even among my own family. Although only a teenager at the time, I shared in house searches in which we looked for evidence of ‘reactionary leanings.’ I also led a public meeting that denounced a ‘counterrevolutionary.’ Of course, these charges were sometimes based more on personal animosity than on political considerations.
“I saw many people—young and old, male and female—given corporal punishment that became more and more cruel. One of my schoolteachers—a good man—was paraded around as if he were a criminal. Two months later another well-respected teacher in my school was found dead in the Suzhou River, and my English teacher was forced to hang himself. I was shocked and puzzled. These were kindhearted people. Treating them like this was wrong! So I severed all my connections with the Red Guards.
“I don’t think this period of hatred that briefly engulfed China was an isolated incident. This century has seen so many outbursts of hatred. I am convinced, however, that love can conquer hatred. It is something I have seen for myself. When I began associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I was impressed by the genuine love they showed people of different races and backgrounds. I look forward to the time when, as the Bible promises, all people will have learned to love one another.”
Yes, the international society of Jehovah’s Witnesses is living proof that hatred can be abolished. Whatever their background, the Witnesses are striving to replace prejudice with mutual respect and to eliminate any vestige of tribalism, racism, or nationalism. One basis for their success is their determination to imitate Jesus Christ in displaying love guided by principle. Another basis is that they look to God’s Kingdom to bring an end to any injustice they may be suffering.
God’s Kingdom is the definitive solution for achieving a world without hatred, a world in which there will not even be evil to hate. Described in the Bible as “new heavens,” this heavenly government will guarantee a world free from injustice. It will rule over “a new earth,” or new society of people who will have been educated to love one another. (2 Peter 3:13; Isaiah 54:13) This education is already under way, as the experiences of Max, Simone, and many others testify. It is a foreglimpse of a worldwide program to eliminate hatred and its causes.
Through his prophet Isaiah, Jehovah describes the result: “They will not do any harm or cause any ruin in all my holy mountain; because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea.” (Isaiah 11:9) God himself will have called a halt to the hatred. It will truly be a time to love.
[Pictures on page 7]
Nazis tattooed a prison number on Max Liebster’s left arm
[Picture on page 8]
Hatred will soon be a thing of the past