Hate poisons the heart; love purifies it. Jesus says to us, “Love your enemies.” It is not only for the sake of the enemy that he says this but for our sake too, and because love is more beautiful than hate. The greatest gift we possess is the gift to love. There is one thing that can utterly destroy this gift, and that is hatred.
Two farmers, John and James, were good friends until a dispute arose between them over a piece of land. Unable to settle the issue among them selves, they went to court over it. The court decided in favor of John. James was bitter, and put poison in John’s well, not a fatal dose, but enough to give it an obnoxious taste. John was very angry. His neighbors heard about it. Some refused to get involved. But others were supportive and declared that James should be made to pay for what he had done. John was about to go by night and poison James” well when a stranger arrived at his house. On hearing the story the stranger agreed that it was a pretty nasty situation, but he wouldn’t agree with retaliation. “Poison is not a thing to play around with,” he declared. “I’ve a better idea. I’ll show you in the morning.”
His idea was to clean out the well. He offered to help. Reluctantly John agreed. It was a messy business and took them two whole days. Then they ran the fresh water through the well several times. Finally, the stranger took a cup of the water, drank it, and declared that it was clean. John also drank from the well, but insisted that he could still taste the poison. To which the stranger replied,
“Take it from me, the water is perfect. But you will continue to taste the poison until you do one more thing.”
“What’s that?” asked John earnestly. “You must forgive your neighbor. You have got rid of the poison from the well, but not the poison that lodges in your mind and heart. Not until you let go of your bitterness, and forgive your brother, will the water taste right.”
That evening John went over to his neighbor and made peace with him. When he came back he tasted the water again. This time it tasted good.
Hatred is a very dangerous thing. It can destroy us. We consume more energy in hating than in all our other activities. It creates a legacy of bitterness, hostility, and resentment. Christ’s way is a better way. It is not a soft way. It’s a hard way that calls for great strength and toughness. The person who is truly non-violent, who is incapable of violence, is the person who is fearless.
Chesterton said, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found hard and left untried”. More than any other, the exhortation to love one’s enemies has been left untried.