Emily Dickenson once penned these words:
I HAD no time to hate, because
The grave would hinder me,
And life was not so ample I
Could finish enmity.
Nor had I time to love; but since
Some industry must be,
The little toil of love, I thought,
Was large enough for me.
In her own poetic style, Dickenson warns us about spending our one wild precious life on hate and encourages us to instead give our time and energy toward ‘a little toil of love.’ Christian Spirituality gives us a similar charge: Love, not hate. The author of 1 John puts it like this:
Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sisterwhom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. (1 John 4:20-21, NRSV)
We seldom think of love and hate in such stark terms. And yet many of the voices we listen to, exhort us to one or the other, and it is usually not love. Media pundits and personalities prey on fears of people different than us; our inability to hear the other side fuels our cynicism about the state of things in these divided states of America. The voices that call us toward love are drowned out by sensationalism as we hear of yet another act of senseless violence and we each take our sides.
In the wake of Lent and Easter we were reminded of how Jesus came to make visceral what the love of God for each of us looks like. There was enough hate to go around, even back then, but Jesus’ little toil of love was to move toward others with compassion—to suffer alongside those who were suffering—to make space for the ones that no one else had time and energy to deal with and to love them wholeheartedly.
What would it take for us to love like Jesus? Who are the people we find difficult to love? So much of walking the way of Jesus is learning to love others the way that he loved people. Yes, love takes time and who has time for that? Well hate takes time, too, so what do you want to make time for?