Of haters and holiness

“If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.” Exodus 23:5

Interpersonal conflict is where our godliness is really put to the test. Easily may we wax eloquent on the glorious doctrines of Scripture (and may God help us to do so more); readily may we tell others about Jesus (and may God strengthen us to do so all the more urgently). But real-life holiness is Jesus and his truth implemented in the midst of ordinary, every-day life.

Moses mentions one such ordinary relation as “one who hates you,” in other words, a hater. This is an infamous kind of relation, and the most of us fancy ourselves as having an army of them in our lives. (More likely is the sage utterance popularly attributed to Winston Churchill, “When you’re 20 you care what everybody things, when you’re 40 you stop caring what everyone thinks, when you’re 60 you realize no one was ever thinking about you in the first place.)

If we see the hater in everyone, perhaps the hater lies within. Nietzsche may help us here: “And if thou gaze long into the hater, the hater will also gaze into thee.” Above all, let God’s people be sure they aren’t smelling their own breath when they offer others a mint. And if haters be real, the text keeps us sober, for Moses speaks of “one” who hates you. A pack of haters rarely follows a man.

With that said, personal conflict is a reality in the Christian life, and the testing grounds of our spiritual maturity. We will pray for those who have wronged us, but helping them jumpstart their car, well that’s just a bit too far. In that case, we have not yet begun to love our enemies. Sin tells us to rejoice in their suffering; Christ calls us to help them, even in very practical ways. And this commandment is not burdensome. Have we forgotten that he loved us, his haters, and died under our sin-burden?