In 2012, I went with a small team to Kenya for three weeks. We spent time in some local churches, teaching pastors, teachers, and students. I loved my time with these brothers and sisters in Christ. They seemed unburdened by possessions, friendly and open and humble. When I returned home, however, I wasn’t encouraged by their faith, I was busy hating Americans.
I saw that America (or what I saw of America) wasn’t full of poverty, so I assumed that Americans were greedy and materialistic. I saw that many Americans, saved or not, were “worse than” the limited view of Kenyan believers that I had, so I assumed that Americans were all evil people, especially compared to Kenyans. I took a little information and made American into “hell” and anywhere else into paradise. I lived in my world of hate for months until God slowly began working on my heart.
First, I began to actually look at Americans. I read the book The Kingdom of Heaven is Not About Eating or Drinking, a true story of a family who moved from America to Kenya live as missionaries. They weren’t living as greedy, horrible people; they were living as godly, humble people. I met people in my church who were living on mission in America, and not just living for themselves. I began to see that Americans are not all self-centered. By the grace of God, Americans can be sanctified, just like Kenyans can.
Then I began to think, maybe Kenyans can sin, just like Americans can. The Kenyan idol was crumbling. I realized that people sin regardless of geography. I sought to love American sinners more, but I still hung on to my anger at American Christians. How dare they claim to love Jesus and live in such wealth, I thought, while Kenyans live in poverty? I knew that this wasn’t godly, true thinking, but my hatred needed an object.
Finally, the hate began to die. I heard this message all at once from several lectures and sermons, from friends and mentors, and from the Bible: “You cannot serve the Lord if you hate His Church.” I realized that my sinful attitude was taking people that God called valuable, and calling them evil. I was not being grateful for Kenya believers, I was jealous of where they were born. Over the past year and a half, I began to stop hating Americans, and instead started loving them as God’s creatures. I am not perfect at this, but I am learning more and more that “he who loves his brother abides in the light,” and that this includes my American brothers. And hate is exhausting.