A woman cries in front of destroyed apartment buildings in Mariupol, Ukraine. CNS photo/Alexander Ermochenko, Reuters

Christ lets us escape the trap of hate

By 
  • March 30, 2022

Tyrants commit many sins. They strip away individual freedom, unleash fear and terror, displace people from their homes and they murder indiscriminately. If you don’t believe me, turn on your television or find news reports from Kyiv and Mariupol, places that are looking more and more like Berlin at the end of the Second World War.

They also cause good people to hate… contrary to every teaching of our Lord. It’s a primal hate but it must be overcome.

The images you see from Ukraine are the expression of hate coming from a deranged man in the Kremlin named Vladimir Putin.

As of this writing, Putin and his enablers are trying to flatten Ukraine. They are trying to starve out or kill those citizens who haven’t fled. They’re doing this because they can’t overcome Ukrainian military resistance. Nothing is worse than a humiliated “strong man” or a cornered rat.

He is like many of the dreary dictators of history: Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Stalin and Mao. All of them the anti-Christ.

C.S. Lewis put it this way:

“How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been; how gloriously different are the saints.”

Unlike the saints, tyrants need mass adulation and obedience. Tyrants see love and they lash out. They are the abusive husbands of the world.

They are, in effect, sick. They fuel their people with hate of the “other” to get them to their bidding. In the process, the good people, the victims and the witnesses, must struggle with a primal hate of their own.

But as Christians, we must resist the trap of hate. The most awful dictators ensure the circle of hate, of vengeance and retribution, keeps spinning. By hating we abet their crimes and play into their schemes. It’s that circle of hate that Christ tried to warn us about in Sermon on the Mount.

The hate we now feel over the destruction of Ukraine erodes our inner peace. It puts us into the never-ending circle. Hate is a nasty medicine that rarely cures anything. There is a great expression: “Hate is the act of taking poison and hoping the other guy dies.”

Yet we know it’s a terrible sin to hate. It’s a tension many of us live with. How can we not hate Putin? How can we not hate those who intentionally fire missiles into maternity wards and schools?

What is there to do? We are told we must pray for our enemies. How often have we heard that? Why doesn’t it get easier?

I’ve struggled with this. Why pray for those who are evil people when there are so many good people who need our prayers?

Jesus had two answers:

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

And this:

“For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.”

Jesus was truth incarnate. He was never wrong.

There’s a way to think about this that might help. At least it has helped me.

Think of those whose evil causes us to hate as having a disease. If they were lepers, we might be repulsed by their physical appearance. But we would want to pray for them, despite some elemental revulsion, that their disease would be lifted. That at the very least they would find some peace of mind to deal with their affliction.

The comparison is apt. The faces of those who hate often appear twisted. Their mental illness takes on a physicality.

None of this means that we do nothing. Everyone has a right to defend their home and homeland. If it were up to me, I’d send the Ukrainians more jet fighters and declare a no-fly zone. But we in our comfortable living rooms watching this play out on television can funnel our rage into charity for the victims. As I recently wrote we should feel their pain. We should share it.

Believe what Jesus said. I know I do… even though I struggle with it every day.

(Lewis is a regular contributor to The Catholic Register.)

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