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Hatred: YAL Session (Ages 18-35)

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By Spiro D. Bobotas

The following article is intended to be used as a discussion starter for young adults. Following the article, you will find questions for discussion. If possible, distribute the article prior to the meeting, so that the young adults will have time to reflect. It is important that there is someone with a strong understanding of Orthodoxy (Priest, Deacon, Theologian.)present to steer the discussion in the proper direction. Spiro is a graduate of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and presently is employed by the Come Receive the Light Radio Ministry.

What is it that makes the heart drown in anger and despair? What separates a person from ones relationship with other people but more importantly with their relationship with God?

In the recent weeks we have heard the word HATE and we have certainly witnessed the act of hatred as they have occurred. The horrific acts have burned in our mind sand hearts as the images are played over and over, by the media. It has affected our actions and feelings toward each other and to those who are outside our National Community.

Every history book and civilization speaks of hatred, and on the evening news we are constantly reminded of the hate that exists in our everyday lives, none more,than with the recent Attacks on America. Webster defines hatred as "a strong aversion or detestation coupled with ill will." Regardless of its formal definition, hatred itself is far from the message that we receive in Holy Scripture and in Christ's commandment to love our fellow man.

We find our true humanity in our relationship with God. The fact that we recreated in the image and likeness of God (meaning that we were created with the potential to reach our destiny, being with God) ideally has us mirror the relationship that God has with us, and not to follow a relationship with Satan.

Satan's main purpose is to separate us from God. We need to be aware as the Rev. Father Stanley Harks writes in Living the Faith: The Praxis of Eastern Orthodox Ethics that "sin and hatred are of the same nature, for they distort our inner being and call upon inner dispositions which 'murder' the human qualities within us."

We have been placed in a position that tears at our minds and hearts and that goes against our most basic thought of decency or self-image. We have been, by an act of war, made to feel betrayed, vulnerable, but most of all angry.

In turn, these feelings may continue to decay our inner selves, turning one away from good and toward evil. This constant decay may turn into malevolence crossing from a negative attitude to the desire to harm or destroy. Fr. Harakas states that this malevolence does not only restrict itself to humans but to ideas, faith, races, society and politics.

If these feelings are not put in check, they may turn from feelings, to obsessions. We need only to look back in history to see what effects this has had in Nazi Germany, and in pre-civil rights America.

How can we safeguard ourselves from allowing hate to enter into the depths of our humanity? How can we keep from turning cold and vengeful, and what can we do when we find ourselves full of hate?

St. Maximos the Confessor stated, "But I say to you, said the Lord,‘love your enemies; do good to them that hate you; pray for them that abuse you.’ (Matthew 5:44) Why did He command this? That He might grant you the greatest of all possession perfect charity - which cannot be had,except by the man who loves all men equally in imitation of God who loves all men equally and wills them to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth."

In short, we need to be able to find a way to exchange hatred for love. This seems like a very difficult if not a confusing request. How do we return good for evil? How can we possibly put this despicable act behind us?

A beginning would be to relate our enemy not only to ourselves but also to God and to His love. If we take a step to pray for our enemy, resisting any temptation to get revenge, we may be on the proper road.

In Luke 6:35 we read, "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be the sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish." It is not enough, to not hate your enemy, but one needs to care for their welfare and well-being as well. This selfless kind of love imitates the love of Christ.

Now I speak of a place that is the ideal, I speak of a mind that we need to reach; I speak of a world not of the few but of the many. This horrible act was perpetrated by a few, by evil men who cover themselves in a deceitful vale of faith, a faith that in truth does not look upon violence positively but as a disgrace.

We have heard on the news that many Arab Americans have been attacked, or Muslim women who are afraid to leave their homes. People who are of a different religion, nationality or dress are not the same as those who use misguided interpretations of their holy book to murder. Many of these people are our fellow brothers and Americans.

So how should we look upon this predicament that we are in? How should we continue when many of us mourn the death of our friends, family, security and innocence.In Ephesians 4:26 we read, "Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil." Father Anthony Coniaris wrote, "Anger is a God -given emotion meant to be directed against sin and injustice…It is reserve power to jar us out of inertia,to inflame us with zeal for the things that are good and true. And finally Fr. Coniaris states that if there are still many injustices in society today, it is because we do not feel a sense of outrage anymore. Well, we feel outrage. We are angry and we need to direct the energy toward the evil and injustices in the world, not those that just seems to fit our desires but to those injustices that help not only us, but those who look toward us for a better life.

Hatred removes us from our true Christian ability to be with God. We need to remember that we hate the sin not the sinner. This is where we can redefine this convoluted issue. It is difficult for most to show any compassion for those who did this horrible act, I am simply saying, that the people who did this, as horrible as it was, were people too. It is easy because of their actions, for us to call them monsters and worse, however, God created these people as he created us. It is not God who turned them evil and it was not God who did this. The terrorist chose the dark side and the sin was committed. Through forgiveness we can avoid falling into sin ourselves. It is only through forgiving our enemies that we can be forgiven ourselves. If we can truly forgive, we are on a road to true Christian living and Theosis.

Discussion Questions

How can hate separate you from God?

How can hateful obsessions manifest themselves in extreme cases?

Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you; pray for them that abuse
you. Does this statement make sense to you?

How can we love our enemies?

How can you use anger in a positive way?

The proverbial question, is there an evil so great that even God can't
forgive?

I sit possible to attain a state in which we can forget revenge and hatred?

How does love of an enemy, play out in the defense of one's country or belief?