"You're not doing what I want so you are hateful!"
"No, you're hateful for saying that I'm hateful!"
"I am not hateful at all, but if I speak loudly about your hate, then no one will notice my hate!"
I will admit, I have never heard a conversation go like this, and you probably have not either. I have, however, heard (and read) many conversations that, if reworded for accuracy, would sound exactly like this. This type of caustic conversation is becoming more and more common today, and there are many who are asking, "where did this come from?" It is not really hard to see the roots of it, and as there are so many examples, it is easy to pinpoint. There are so many examples that I have to say it is somewhat sickening to hear so much talk about hate. Although the Lord does call us to hate some things (cf. Rev 2:6), the emotion He is encouraging in us is not the commonly seen lashing out in vile anger that is so common today.
Interestingly, all the hatred that we are hearing about in America, was clearly foreshadowed years ago in many places. Maybe you remember some of them, but let me give an example. Have you ever read the comment boxes on a website? Just take a casual read through the comments on a site like Fox News and you will find people lashing out in hate at each other on a daily basis. I can only imagine (because I never go there myself) what the comboxes look like on sites like CNN and the like. It has been a gradual slide into this abyss of anger, and many have not even seen it happening.
We have been "hating each other" from a distance for so long now (I can recall reading garbage of this type on the internet 15 years ago), that we have ingrained it into our societal norms. It only takes a few years for our society to move the "private" hatred of impersonal internet interaction, and begin to extend that in ever increasing amounts into the public sphere. Children in their early teens have grown up knowing almost nothing else. As things progress in this manner, and we become more and more desensitized to the spread of hate, it makes it harder to recognize it if we are not living regularly in a context of love.
In fact, love is the very issue that we need to consider as we look at the causes of hate. No, I do not mean that love leads to hate, but rather that our understanding of love is related to our understanding of hate. Think on this: it is true that hate is the opposite of love, but that does not mean that everything that is unloving is necessarily hateful. Nor does it mean that everything that displeases us is unloving! "Hate" is not an all-encompassing word for any behavior that you do not like. Yet, we hear so much discussion about hate these days. It is in the title of protests; it is in the news articles; it is on the lips of people every day. Yet, virtually none that I have seen or heard about recently is actually the biblical form of godly hate that is acceptable (such as hatred of genuine sin, but not the sinner).
In my home, my wife and I have worked long and hard to make "love one another" more than just a vague phrase for our children. All of our actions, duties, and even our play with the children has been guided by this primary Law of God. This means that we have made sure that the definition of "love" has been emphatically clear: "love as Christ loved, self sacrificially". Even when the children were little, we would ask "are you showing love?", and the way we would determine that answer was by the rule of thumb: "are you being self-sacrificial?" As they grew to understand better what that meant, the sacrificial sense of love became second nature for them.
I can see the clearest example of how far our society has come when I tell my (older) children about some of the hateful actions that people are engaging in these days. They stare at me with shock. My 20-year-old daughter even started to cry one day when I told her of some of the behavior at the riots that have occurred in the last couple of years (Ferguson, Missouri; Baltimore, Maryland, etc.). When you live in a loving family, then hatred is repulsive, and it is never appealing to you in any way. I fear that much of America has become calloused to the emotion of (sinful) hate, and thus has not noticed just how far we have degenerated.
Here is the key (in my opinion) to this entire experience of the growing hate in America. People have been talking about "love" quite a lot since the 1960's, and the more they have spoken about it, the less accurate they have been. The word "love" has been used to refer to various activities such as sexual immorality (which it has nothing to do with at all), and "niceness" (which is also a wholly different concept). I have heard people refer to someone as "unloving" because he gave a gentle correction. I have heard people say it is loving to ignore someone's sin. Clearly, we do not, as a nation, know what love really is. If we do not know how to do the most important commandments of God, then how can we clearly understand what the opposite is?
Lacking a true knowledge of genuine godly love, we easily attribute "hate" to all the wrong things (as per the imaginary conversation at the beginning of this article), and also ignore the hate in our own hearts. We do not know how to love, so we do not know how to hate (or not hate, as the case may be). These two confusions go hand in hand, and can only be solved by deepening our knowledge of the love of God.
As the Scriptures have made clear, love is rooted in God, Who is love. Thus, only in relation to God can we truly understand what love is. As soon as we devolve into paganism or atheism, we separate ourselves from God and thus lose any (and all) knowledge of what love is. Love is only seen accurately, as I said above, in the context of Christ's self-sacrifice on the cross. All other definitions are in error. Hence, if we do not understand love, then we also will not understand what "hate" really is. There is a godly form of "hate", but it looks nothing like the sinful form of hate that so pervades the pages of the news today.
Therefore, we are hating in a sinful manner because our love is likewise performed in a sinful manner. Trying to understand what hate is, without understanding what love is, would be like trying to understand what masculinity is without understanding what femininity is (oh, sorry, we're already doing that!). People say that they are loving, while they are not; and people say that others are hating, while they themselves are hating. Confusion abounds, and only a return to recognizing the love of God shown on the cross will get us out of this pit. Let us pray that we can live in such a way that we show what it means to be loved by God, as well as to love God and love neighbor.