Evil people hate good people because they resent the twinge of conscience that the silent testimony of the good provokes in them. They secretly long for the innocence that the good enjoy, but they prefer the freedom of evil, and take out their inner frustration by resenting the good people. Good people hate evil people because they resent the tug of desire that the silent testimony of the bad produces in them. They secretly long for the indulgence that the wicked enjoy, but they adopt the limitations of the good, and they take out their inner frustration by resenting the wicked people.
Not that there are neat clean divisions between good people and evil people. We are all a little of both. I can see both hatreds in my own life. I can see in myself hints of resentment for all those – who clearly must be “libertines”! – who get away with all the things I would never dare to indulge in. And I resent all those – who undoubtedy must be “Pharisees”! – who silently reproach me for doing the things that deep down I know I shouldn’t do. It can’t be just me. I have a suspicion we are all libertines and Pharisees in our own unique ways.
The better we become at being bad, the more likely we are to despise those who choose the good. And the surprising thing is that the better we become at being good, at resisting our impulses and choosing the narrow path, we are more, not less, likely to despise those who don’t do the same.
No matter who we are, and no matter who the other person is, hate will come easily. Love is the only way forward. And love will require work. Correction: love will require grace.
In the Gospels I see love. And I see that love moving in both directions.
- I see Jesus sharing meals with sinners and prostitutes. But I also see Jesus dining with Pharisees and teachers of the law.
- I read the story of the prodigal son being welcomed back by his loving father, and I hear the same father plead lovingly to the prodigal’s resentful, judgmental brother to come in and join the festivities.
Jesus loves those that society typically calls sinners – those who surrender to their impulses and desires and take no thought of self-control and godliness. But the love of Jesus is also a love for the other sinners, too: those who try to be good and live strict, conservative, religious lives, but find themselves divided on the inside, secretly wanting to give in, and judging those who do.
Jesus demands that both groups repent. But that very call to repentance means that all of them are invited and none of them are turned away.
How might we, who have a firm foothold on both sides of good and evil, become more like Jesus? How might we work on cultivating love toward the people in both directions from where we stand?