Our heads bowed, our eyes closed. One final prayer and then the singing school our family attends each summer would come to an end.
But I was startled by the minister’s words. After all, I’d never heard the phrase “hate my guts” used in prayer, much less in one at such a large, public assembly.
“Lord help me to love those who hate me, who hate my guts.”
Are there people who hate me? Who hate my guts?
I would be naive to think otherwise. Make the wrong comment or express the wrong opinion on Facebook if you have any doubt that “haters gonna hate.”
The preacher’s words may have taken me off guard at the time, but they stuck with me and I’ve pondered them for months.
There’s no whining or putting the blame on someone else, no “I’m a decent person so why do people hate me?” And he didn’t ask for help simply to keep himself from hating people who hate him in return, because let’s face it, that’s easy to do. He asked the Lord to help him love those who hate him. To love them. Not merely to tolerate them or even to be capable of ignoring them— and that would be quite a thing because it hurts when you know someone hates you.
To love someone who hates you is a truly divine kind of love, the kind that allows you to push past the hurt and see people for themselves, beyond whatever misunderstandings or wrongs have piled up between you.
Even if the hatred stems from what we represent instead of who we are.
The Bible warns us that openly declaring ourselves as Christian guarantees the hatred of some:
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake . . . (Matthew 10:22)
And yet Jesus calls us to love our enemies:
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 . . . (Matthew 5:44)
In January, we slow down and take a thoughtful look at both our lives and our goals: What’s working for me? What do I need to change?
Some of us even select a Word of the year, a theme that the Lord has laid upon our heart. (Mine is Serve.)
In 2018, I hope to serve and love those around me. Even the ones who may hate me for who — and Whose — I am.
Will you join me?