The past year – the past two months, actually, – revealed something to me that I did not know. I have a hater. To say I was surprised is an understatement. What multiplied my surprise exponentially was the fact that (1) this hater is my brother-in-law, (2) this hater professes a personal relationship with Christ, and (3) this hater and I have had the leanest, most bare-bones contact since we saw each other last two Christmases ago.
Yet, Christmas is the season of giving and sharing, and I felt it appropriate, despite everything, to give him a gift. Three, actually. Here is what I gave him:
Herein lies your three gifts from me, two of which you’ve already received, though you haven’t realized it.
My first gift to you is forgiveness. I forgive you for the mean and hateful things you’ve said about me behind my back. I also forgive you for telling my husband he should divorce me, simply because you don’t like me. I told you once before that I am willing to forgive you 70 times 7 times, and this is simply one more. You’ve had this gift for over a year.
My second gift to you is prayer. When Peter told me you hate me, I was incredulous. My first thought was, Why? After all, we haven’t seen each other in two years, nor have we spoken. My second thought was, Isn’t he supposed to be a Christ-follower? My Bible tells me not to hate. It tells me that God created us all in God’s image, and that God is love. My Jesus tells his disciples – his followers and those who learn from him – to love one another. Period. There are no conditions on this love; it’s to be unconditional. My Bible also says that it’s not possible to hate someone and live in the light of God. Lastly, my Bible says to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. For whatever reason, you’ve allowed jealousy and hate to enter your heart, and from there, they have spread their poisons to your soul like thick, black sludge. Your hate only hurts you and those who love you; you’ve already allowed your hate to severely damage your relationship with your only brother. I have been praying for you since I learned how strong your feelings for me are, and my prayer for you is that the spirit of God’s love will be the antidote to the poison of hate inside of you.
Lastly, my third gift to you – and this comes from Peter and me! – is gratitude. Every time you tell Peter all the things you can’t stand about me, it reminds him of how much he appreciates those attributes in me. He’s known I’m “opinionated and outspoken” from when we were dating, and he knows I get it honestly from the very strong women in my family. He loves that I’m intelligent enough to form my own thoughts and opinions on matters, and he respects and is proud of the fact that I’m bold enough and confident enough to express those thoughts and feelings. He knows I can speak openly for myself; I don’t have to play silly games like hiding behind some man, pretending I’m speaking in his voice. This leads him to love me more deeply and it brings us even closer together. So we thank you, because, like most couples, we can use moments of renewal, and your words bring that. How awesome is our God who can bring good out of evil!
Returning hate for hate seems easy. Nurturing “The Poison Tree” takes time, effort and sacrifice. Forgiveness and offering prayer is much harder, yet only requires the sacrifice of pride. Once I forgave and committed to praying for my brother-in-law, I became free! I was free of his hate, free of anger, and free to have the love and compassion for him that God Godself has for him.
I key these words, not to prove anything or to appear any way. I am a genuine Christ-follower who sins and misses God’s will for my life on a daily basis. But I give you these words to inspire you, to give you hope, and to show you that there is an alternative to hate.