There is an old musical “South Pacific” which I loved as a child and still do today. We actually performed that musical in high school. There is a song from South Pacific, whose words seem particularly relevant today. The song title is “You’ve got to be carefully taught.” Some of the lyrics are, “You’ve got to be taught to hate and to fear, You’ve got to be taught from year to year, It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear, You’ve got to be carefully taught.” The words continue in the second verse with,
“You’ve got to be taught to be afraid, of people whose eyes are oddly made, and people whose skin is a different shade, You’ve got to be carefully taught.” A third verse continues, “You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late, Before you are six or seven or eight, to hate all the people your relatives hate, You’ve got to be carefully taught!”
This song and these words play in my head often as I watch events unfold on the news and wonder (along with everyone else probably) what this world is coming to? Division and conflict are nothing new to human history, however. In the musical West Side Story, rival gangs were fighting each other. In Romeo and Juliet, it was the Capulets and the Montagues that were at war with each other. They all had the same skin color, just different last names. It seems we will allow ourselves to be divided and set against one another for any reason, be it gender, age, economic group, religious group, political persuasion, educational group, skin color group, ethnic group, working group, (management vs. labor), rural vs. urban, – the list is endless because there is no end to the myriad of ways we are taught to classify, identify and separate ourselves from each other. We have to be taught to do this.
We are taught to focus on our differences rather than on our similarities and our commonalities. It’s like the song says, “we have to be carefully taught.” And taught we have been. Or maybe, for some of us, we weren’t taught to hate and we’ve been getting along pretty well until now, when we are being told to hate, even if that is not what we were taught. We are being manipulated, taught, to hate and to fear one another all over again. All our past progress is being undermined by those that would benefit from social unrest and division. Hard to believe that not everyone wants peace. Yes, not everyone is pursuing peace, or even desires peace in our time.
The antidote to hate is love. Just as we have to be taught to hate, as the song says, we can also be taught to love. We can learn how to love because love is an action verb, not a feeling. We read a further definition of love in 1 John 4:10-12,
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
We get further clarification about what love looks like from these words,
“We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:19-21)
Seems pretty clear – we are to love each other, not spend our time hating each other. We all share something in common – our origin.
“Then God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
Created in God’s image, we were created and commanded to love God and to love each other.
“The most important one, . . . Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
We realize our God given potential through our acts of love. Acts of hate only diminish us as well as those who are the objects of our hate. The way out of our current state of affairs is to learn to love each other. If we can be taught to hate, as the song says, we can also learn to love. God’s word leads us in this learning process of what love truly looks like.
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:10)
that says it all, doesn’t it? love does no harm – love does no harm – if we all lived by that law, how different our lives would look . . .
sincerely, Grace Day