I read this quote by Nelson Mandela posted on Facebook the other day:
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
At first glance this quote seems right and a wonderful sentiment. And it is partly true — people can be taught to love and the objects of hatred are often taught. But I’m not sure I agree with the idea that no one is born hating. If no human being was ever born hating then who taught mankind to hate? It had to start somewhere.
In Genesis we see Cain expressing hatred for his brother Abel — hatred so strong it led him to commit the first murder. If Cain was not born with that propensity to hate, then who taught him to hate his brother? Surely it wasn’t his parents, Adam and Eve. What did they know of hatred? Only what they had learned from eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but I doubt they would have taught that knowledge to Cain and suggest that it was the better course.
After several generations had passed after that first act of hatred by Cain, the Bible tells us, “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” Genesis 6:5 (NIV). Nothing has changed since that time.
I believe that envy, jealousy, selfishness, and pride, which lead to hatred, are all more natural to the human heart than love. I know that when I once looked into my own heart, this is what I saw. Even now there are times when those feelings can so easily rear their ugly head. I doubt that I am so different from other people in this regard, and yet so many fail to see the defects in their own hearts but want to believe that love comes more naturally to them.
Not only can we be taught to love, we must be taught to love. “We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 (NIV). Apart from God, and the knowledge of His great love and mercy, the inclinations of the human heart continue to be towards evil. Love flourishes in the human heart and overcomes hatred and selfishness only where love is taught.
Thankfully, “God is love,” 1 John 4:8 (NIV), and He is willing to change the human heart that trusts in Him.