The Opposite of Hate
A philosophy professor that I had while in seminary once asked his class, "What's the opposite of love?" Now, many people have heard the answer to this question. The opposite of love is not hatred, but indifference. Within hatred there is at least enough importance attributed to the person to deem them worthy of being hated, but indifference simply says, "You're not even important enough to acknowledge!"
But having made this point, this professor went on to ask, "So if the opposite of love is indifference, what is the opposite of hate?" With his class completely stymied, he went on to answer (as though the answer should have been obvious!) that the opposite of hatred is hospitality. You see, the message of hatred is basically, "You are not welcome here." Hatred is actively pushing the other away as a loathed, detestable being. So, yes, it is fitting that the opposite of hate should be that action that welcomes, that invites and embraces. This is hospitality.
In training others for evangelization, I have begun to stress that 90% of evangelization is hospitality.
Hospitality, at its core, is much more than cookies and neatly arranged napkins. Hospitality communicates to others that they have value. It says, "I consider it an honor to be in your presence." A smile, a hand held out in friendship, a willingness to look the other in the eye, seeking conversation - all are ways of acknowledging and honoring the other's presence. Even neatly arranged napkins communicate, "You are worth the effort of attending to the small details." And all of this is critical to evangelization.
To be sure, "there is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are not proclaimed" (Evangelii Nuntiandi 22), but hospitality makes up so much of the critical work of earning the right to be heard. It communicates in speech and in deed, "I am for you" and opens up the possibility of a sincere evangelizing conversation.
To consider the magnitude of potential that lies in simple hospitality, consider these powerful words from Bl. Mother Theresa:
"The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty -- it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There's a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God."