More Powerful Than Hate


Empathy Helps The Enemy See Their Own Humanity

by Eric Elkin

To you who are ready for the truth, I say this:
Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst…
— Luke 6: 27 (The Message)

Hate is on the rise. Although, that may not be the most accurate statement. I doubt there was ever a time when hate did not have a hold on some portion of the population. Perhaps, it would be better to say, hate is stepping out into the limelight.

When I was a teenager, marches held by neo-Nazis' seemed to have an almost comical flavor to them. From my view, they gathered more laughter than support. Then one day it felt like the neo-Nazis went away.

White supremacist groups did not go away,  they only went into hiding. Now as they emerge back into the culture, we see they've had a makeover. Their Nazi brown shirt-styled uniforms gave way to business suits. Punk rock spikes and chains were replaced by commando uniforms. 

White supremacists now promote themselves on the internet and influence mainstream media. They run for office and even get elected. Their leaders learned to use contemporary language to seduce the frustrated into hatred. 

In recent years a left-wing version emerged to counter right-wing hate groups. The Antifa movement is attracting young liberals. These ancestors of hippies have abandoned non-violence. They support actions they deem more proactive and effective against hate. 

According to a September 2017 article in The Atlantic, "[Antifa] pressures venues to deny white supremacists a place to meet.  They pressure employers to fire them and landlords to evict by them." If those efforts fail, they are quick to resort to physical violence.

As groups become more embolden to promote their flavor of hate, those who have no stomach for it are left wondering, how do we defeat hatred without giving in to it ourselves?

God has a plan for how to start anew…In those places and times of hardship, it seems appropriate to think about the newness and change and hope that comes when God takes twigs and makes cedars.
— Tyler Mayfield

A group of people called, “formers,”  will tell you the most effective weapon against hatred is empathy. "Formers" should know, they are people who left hate groups and started a new life. Punching a neo-Nazi might be productive in expressing anger, but it does not elicit conversion of thought.  

Derek Black discovered empathy when he went to college. He was groomed to be a 21st-century transformative leader of the KKK. However in college, like many students, he abandoned the belief system of his parents. When he encountered a diverse and loving community among people he used to hate, he was transformed. 

Another “former,” Christian Picciolini, is quick to point out how his hatred was broken by customers visiting his record store. Picciolini opened a record store in Chicago to sell white supremacist music. However, he quickly learned the store depended on selling records he hated to people he hated to make it.

In an interview with National Public Radio, Picciolini said, “I had never in my life engaged in a meaningful dialogue with the people that I thought I hated, and it was these folks who showed me empathy when I least deserved it, and they were the ones that I least deserved it from.” Now, he uses his transformation experience to help others escape the hold of hatred.

Empathy is NOT passively allowing someone to hit you in the name of Christ or anyone else for that matter. Empathy is searching out the fearful child lingering in those who no longer can see anything good in themselves. Empathy is responding with the best of you instead of succumbing to the worst of a wounded neighbor.


Click to read Luke 6: 27-38

Reflection Questions:

  • In your mind, what makes a group a “hate group” ?

  • How tempting is it to give in to acts of hatred?

  • What does empathy look like when confronting an enemy?

  • How can an enemy bring out he best in you?

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