Consider another trait common in the world—hatred. Whether caused by fear, ignorance, prejudice, oppression, injustice, nationalism, tribalism, or racism, hatred seems to be all around us. (2 Timothy 3:1-4) Hatred was also rampant in Jesus’ day. Tax collectors were hated outcasts in Jewish society. Jews had no dealings with Samaritans. (John 4:9) And Gentiles, or non-Jews, were also scorned by the Jews. Eventually, however, the way of worship Jesus instituted was to embrace people from all nations. (Acts 10:34, 35; Galatians 3:28) So he lovingly gave his disciples something new.
Jesus declared: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” They had to learn to display this love, for he continued: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:34, 35) The commandment was new in that it went beyond loving “your fellow as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18) In what way? Jesus clarified the matter, saying: “This is my commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you. No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends.” (John 15:12, 13) They had to be willing to sacrifice their very lives for one another and for others.
How can imperfect humans eliminate malicious hatred from their lives? By replacing it with self-sacrificing love. Millions of sincere individuals from all ethnic, cultural, religious, and political backgrounds are doing just that. They are now being integrated into one united, hate-free community—the global brotherhood of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They take to heart the inspired words of the apostle John: “Everyone who hates his brother is a manslayer, and you know that no manslayer has everlasting life remaining in him.” (1 John 3:15) True Christians not only refuse to take up arms in any conflict but also work hard to show love for one another.
What, though, should be our mental attitude toward those who are not our fellow believers and who might show hatred toward us? While hanging upon a stake, Jesus prayed in behalf of his executioners, saying: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) When hate-filled men stoned the disciple Stephen to death, his final words were: “Jehovah, do not charge this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60) Jesus and Stephen wanted the best even for those who hated them. There was no bitterness in their hearts. “Let us work what is good toward all,” the Bible admonishes us.—Galatians 6:10.