By Anthony Casperson
While many learned of the path to dark side of the Force from Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back (“Anger, fear, aggression, the dark side of the Force are they. Easily the flow. Quick to join you in a fight.”), the Jedi master’s words from The Phantom Menace seem to have more easily penetrated the cultural consciousness (“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”).
Though I certainly do have disagreement with the ascetic stoicism of the Jedi, who teach that attachment in any form will ultimately tempt one to a darker path (and I also disagree with the pantheistic/panentheistic nature of the Force, but that’s another topic), there is one part of Yoda’s statement of progression that I believe quite a bit. It proves biblical even.
The section of quote in question is the latter part, “Hate leads to suffering.” (If you hadn’t already figured that out from the title of this blog. Or the picture above.)
On the night that Jesus would be betrayed, he celebrated the Passover with his closest followers. And just after that, either in the very same upper room or on the way from Jerusalem to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus taught his Apostles one more time. Some of which was written by one of these very men, John, in the gospel that bears his name. And in it, Jesus had something to say in regard to hate and suffering.
In the context of John 15, Jesus calls his followers to abide in him. Stay connected and bear fruit like branches connected to the vine. And we do this by obeying the things he taught. In verse 10, Jesus says, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.” And in verse 13 he reveals that the greatest love comes in laying down one’s life for another, like Jesus was about to do on the cross.
And while Jesus’ command is for his followers to show love toward each other, he knows that hatred will come their way from those who do not cling to the name of Christ in obedience. John 15:18-25 speaks to this truth.
When the world (those who do not accept Jesus as their savior) hates us, it shouldn’t surprise we who follow Jesus. He was hated by the very same people and he suffered the persecution brought about because of their hatred of him. And so, we who take up his message of truth will experience the same. Jesus is better than all of us, so if he had to experience suffering brought about by the hatred of those who refused to accept him, then we should expect no less.
It is the hatred, brought about without cause according to verse 25, of those who reject Jesus that bring suffering and persecution to we who follow him. Hate does lead to suffering. First, the world’s hatred led to Jesus’ suffering. Then, the very same hate leads to our suffering.
And I want it to be clear that Jesus’ words, written down by an eyewitness and member of Jesus’ inner circle, include all who reject the true Jesus as written in the gospels. The Jesus who called people out on their sins, commanding them to stop their sin even as he showed them forgiveness. The Jesus who spoke of the truth of eternal judgement and hell more than he spoke of love, or any other topic. The Jesus who showcased frightening power as he calmed the wind and the waves, but who also welcomed young children that seemed bothersome to others.
Accepting only the caricature of Jesus who promotes love and forgiveness without his call to obedience and suffering is just as much a rejection of the true Jesus as denying his very existence.
Abiding in the love of Jesus means obeying him in all things, even the difficult parts that we (or our culture) don’t like. And rejection of that obedience to the truth leads to hatred of Jesus. And hate lead to suffering. Both the suffering of we who follow Jesus now, and the eventual eternal suffering in hell of those who reject Jesus.
Anger toward those who disagree with you, fear of missing out on the things of the world, and aggression against obedience, against the ways of God are they. Easily they flow. Quick to join you in your life.
But if we remain true to him, we’ll witness how obedience and suffering will showcase his real love.