The story is ancient. Only the episode is new. People have hated and killed people since Cain hated and killed Abel.

We are mystified when one people hate another people for hundreds of years. Most of the world's enduring hatreds are centuries old. One wonders if anyone consumed by these hatreds knows why he or she hates. Most enduring hatreds are older than our nation, culture, and society. Not even our hatreds are that old.

Hate exists in America just as it does anywhere else. However, the hates that Americans commonly hold and express are quite young when compared to the centuries old hates that other cultures hold to. We "understand" the "relevance" of our "young hatreds" because "there is reason to hate." We don't understand centuries old hatreds--to us they exist without reason.

Horrible images from Kosovo flow through our televisions. Mass executions. Villages bombarded and burned. Women, children, and the elderly fleeing. People who lost everything. No refuge. No hope.

"How dare anyone slaughter people! How dare anyone treat women, children, and the elderly in such inexcusable ways! How dare anyone be so barbaric and unjust!"

Saturday a Christian brother from Belgrade, Yugoslavia, shared his experience beneath the NATO bombs. As you would expect, he spoke of suffering, destruction, and death. But he spoke of more. He spoke of eight Christians praying Friday night for fog and rain so the bombing would temporarily stop. He spoke of trying to stabilize the inner walls of their place of worship with tent pegs. The next day was Sunday. He spoke of Christians afraid to assemble because they might not be able to return home. Transportation is terrible. Bridges could be bombed next. And the mere vibrations from bombs would cause the building to collapse. Should he encourage Christians to come? He would pray Saturday night and call them early Sunday morning.

He began, "Hope is in God." He ended, "Our only hope is in Christ..." He looked to the Lord of all, our Shepherd, King of kings, and Lord of lords. Senseless slaughter might terrorize people into heartless submission. Bombs might blast people into grudging submission. But as both continue, the fibers of centuries old hatreds grow stronger. The injustices might stop, but hatred will live and grow.

Political change cannot destroy hate. Neither can bombs. Only one change can destroy hate: changed hearts. The Christ changes hearts. A hundred years from now, will your love or your hate live on in the hearts of others?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 4 April 1999

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