Misanthropy is a general dislike of other people. Misanthropy can range from passive indifference to active hatred for the entire race of human beings. Although rare in its most extreme form, most of us cherished a milder strain of misanthropy before we knew Jesus. Hatred of others is part of our fallen, selfish sin natures. But when the Holy Spirit moves into a repentant heart, misanthropy has to go. Jesus changes misanthropes into those who love others.
Misanthropy is the opposite of love, and love is commanded of us more often than anything else. From Leviticus 19:18 to John 13:24, the Bible commands us to love God (Deuteronomy 6:5), love each other (Galatians 5:14), and love our enemies (Luke 6:27). It is impossible to obey those commands and remain misanthropic. Since God does not command us to do that which we have no power to do, then both love and misanthropy are choices we make.
We often excuse misanthropy in ourselves because of negative or painful experiences in the past. Racial prejudice, socio-economic bias, and even misplaced religious zeal can all contribute to misanthropy. The media outlets we entertain can also harden our hearts to our fellow human beings. If we immerse ourselves in the sensational, fear-inducing, or hateful speech of some radio shows, TV broadcasts, and podcasts, we begin to see the whole world as a dark, ugly place. Hatred of Muslims, Jews, Hindus or other religious groups can masquerade as godly fervor, when in truth we are playing right into the hands of our enemy, Satan, who inspires hatred.
How does a misanthrope change? Romans 5:5 says that “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” When we give our lives to Jesus, He sets about cleaning us up. One facet of our old sin nature that has to be replaced is our attitude toward human beings, who are created in God’s image (James 3:9–10). To love God is to love people He loves. First John 4:20 leaves no room for misanthropy: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”
One truth we may notice about ourselves is that this love for others does not come naturally. That’s why love has to be commanded. So the first step in changing a misanthropic attitude is to recognize it as sin. When we agree with God about our sin and confess it, He not only forgives us (1 John 1:9) but empowers us to overcome it (Romans 6:1–4).
We can then study the meaning of love and model the ways that Jesus demonstrated it. First Corinthians 13:4–8 gives us God’s perspective on love. Jesus’ example of humble service shows us how to put it into practice (Matthew 14:14; Mark 6:34). We see that His love always had action attached to it. Love is not passive; it actively works for the betterment of someone else. When Jesus had compassion, He did something. To follow His example, we must find ways to serve people selflessly. It doesn’t matter whether we feel loving or not, because obedience is not a feeling; it is an action.
Misanthropy is the height of self-centered thinking. It is built upon the flawed idea that we alone are worthy of God’s love and forgiveness, but no one else is. Misanthropy assumes that our opinion about other people is accurate and that we are correct in judging them all unworthy. Misanthropy is in direct contrast to John 3:16, which tells us that God looked at the same group of people and did something to save them. He chose to save us because, whether we want to admit it or not, we are all in that group that is unworthy (Romans 3:10). When we allow God’s love to permeate the hardness of our hearts, misanthropy no longer rules.