Many media commentators discussing attacks against different religious or racial groups have claimed that the violence is motivated by hate. The public have taken this up and held vigils and marched for love, claiming that love will triumph over hate.

Not only is love harder than most people realise, but they are also targeting the wrong problem. Most racism is caused by fear, not hate (racial hatred only occurs when fear gets out of control, but this rare).

The media commentators have no understanding of the spiritual aspects of life. They don't realise that evil spiritual powers are real, and can change the behaviour of people who get caught up by them. As a result, they are unable to explain evil events when they occur. If you don't believe that evil is real, you can't use it as an explanation. (The word evil just become an expression for things you intensely dislike).

Media commentators cannot blame evil on fear, because that would not be sufficient to explain the depth of evil. And everyone has felt fear, so we cannot accept the idea that fear would cause people to do evil. They prefer to blame every atrocity on hate, because most of the time, most of us don't hate, so it separates it from us. Also, hate seems ugly enough to explain the evil. Hate seems to be the perfect explanation, but that does not make the claim true.

Most racism is not motivated by hatred, but is motivated by fear of the unknown. All humans like to be with people who are like us. When we see people who are different, we become uneasy, because we feel uncertain about how they behave. That is quite normal.

The solution is to get to know people from other races and religions. Once we know them and understand them, the fear usually goes. If we remain separate, the uncertainty increases, and the fear of what we do not know grows. This is the basis of racism. Fear only turns into hatred when fear gets control and overwhelms our emotions. We can then begin to hate the people who make us afraid. That happens, but it is not as common as the media claim.

Anger is an emotion, that flares up when we feel aggrieved. In contrast, hatred is an attitude. Hatred is intense dislike. A dictionary defines hatred as “intense hostility, usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury”. Hatred is such a strong attitude that it looks for ways to harm the person hated.

There are two ways that hatred functions.

Personal Hatred

Hatred is personal when it is directed towards a particular person. If the other person has done something harmful that has really hurt a person, they will often hate them intensely. The sense of injury causes the hate. The only solution to this hatred is for the perpetrator to apologise and for the victim to forgive them. Forgiveness does not come easy, so hatred often persists and deepens.

Anyone who works in a large organisation will know people who hate each other intensely. These two people will take every opportunity to pull the other person down and harm them. These dysfunctional relationships will flare up frequently, if apology and forgiveness do not occur.

Personal hatred is always directed at a person whom the hater has known and had some bad dealings with. Their bad treatment and hurt are used to justify the hatred.

Love is a strong motivator for forgiveness. So love would resolve this kind of hatred, but it will difficult to get the person to love the one they hate. Talking about the power of love might not change much.

Group Hatred

Hatred of a group is quite different. It is not possible to know all the people who belong to the group, so a group is defined in some obvious way, and everyone belonging to it is assumed to be the same. The thing defining the group is usually colour, ethnicity or religion. Whereas personal hatred arises from bad experiences with the person hated, group hatred arises from ignorance and lack of relationship with the identified group. A feeling that the group has benefited at their expense might increase the hatred.

Hating an entire group of people is basically irrational. Firstly, categorising people on the basis of a single characteristic is foolish, because there will be huge diversity within the chosen characteristic. Assuming that all white people are the same is illogical. Secondly, the character of a huge group of people cannot be determined on the basis of a tiny sample. Assuming that the multitude of people within a category are the same as the few that have been encountered or read about does not make sense.

I remember when I grew up, many men who had fought in the Second World War hated all Japanese. The refused to buy Japanese cars and would not travel to Japan. They had experienced evil fighting against the Japanese and assumed that all Japanese were evil. They took no account of the corrupting effects of war. They just assume that all Japanese people were equally evil. That is not fair.

Likewise, there is huge diversity within the worldwide church. Assuming that all Christians believe the same thing does not make sense. Declaring that all Christians are violent, based on a meeting with few who are, is unfair to other Christians that you have not met.

Group hatred usually begins as fear of the unknown. People are uneasy about people and situations that they have not encountered before. This fear only grows into hatred when fear gets control and overwhelms our emotions. We can then begin to hate the people who make us afraid. Hearing about events that make us afraid, can stir up anger, which then settles into hate.

The solution to this hatred of a naively defined group of people is for people to become acquainted with the people from the group they fear. They will find that the people they meet are just like them. They will not like them all, but that does not matter, because most of us do not like everyone in our own group. We probably choose people we like to be our friends, but we do not need to like everyone. We are not required to like every person that we encounter.

When we get to know the group we fear, we will realise there is huge diversity within the group. There may be some who hold the view that we fear, but it is almost certain that most will not. Rather than assuming they are all the same, or like the bad few that we encountered during a war, we will realise that most are different. Understanding this should be enough for us to live in peace with people of different religion and ethnicity.

Love is not really the right word for this solution. Going to places where we will meet with people from different ethnic groups and religions and getting to know them is what is required. Getting acquainted with neighbours is a better way to describe it.

Real Love

Jesus told his followers that they should love their enemies. That was good advice. Love will triumph over evil and hate, but that is not that as easy it sounds. The basic standard for the treatment of enemies is the so-called golden rule.

Do to others as you would have them do to you (Luke 6:33).
That sounds easy, but it quite difficult.
Love is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of harm.
Love does not delight in injustice (1 Cor 13:4-7).
Those who love seek the good of others ahead of their own good. They do not keep the record of harm that is done to them. Instead, they let it go. Those who love do not rejoice when people they do not like experience injustice. Instead, they care intensely about harm to people who used to be their enemies.

Love is costly. Those who love must care for everyone they encounter who is hurt or suffering. The Good Samaritan did this. The injured mand was his enemy. He could have rejoiced that his enemy had got what he deserved, but he did not. He cared for the injured man in a dangerous situation (Luke 10:30-36). He paid for his care, and committed himself to paying any future costs. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. "Look after him," he said, "and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have" (Luke 10:35).

The Good Samaritan went beyond an initial act of kindness. He committed to paying for his enemy's care. Real love has a cost. I hope that the people who are calling for more love are serious about it. Society will benefit. But they probably do not realise how hard it will be in practice. Without the Holy Spirit working in our lives, we will often fail.


The problem with saying that love triumphs over hate is that it creates another them/us divide. The liberal people who make the declaration believe that they already love everyone. However, they would not buy a house in South Auckland or East Christchurch. They would not go into the rough bars in these areas. Saying that people whom you don't know are “haters” is hypocritical.

The liberal people who say that love will overcome hate mostly drink in nice cafes and wine bars, where the people they meet are just like them, so it is easy to say they love them (whatever they mean by that).

I don't believe that there are many people out there who really hate, even in the hard parts of the city. There are plenty of people who are full of fear, but not many hate. So, when we say that there is a lot of hate that needs to be overcome by love, we do the people in those places a disservice.

Saying that love overcomes fear is easy to say, but saying the words does not make it happen. If they really love everyone in the city, these people would go and live amongst those who are struggling and afraid. That would enable love to triumph over fear and hate.