While in God's Grip!
“If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world — therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It was to fulfill the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’”
“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.”
~ John 15:18 - 27
I met a man this week who grew up in Bolivia, and at the age of eleven, was handed a gun and was forced onto the battlefield. He said, "I saw children who were afraid, and hated their fear so much that they could then point their guns and pull the trigger, shooting someone that was just as afraid. I learned at an early age that the last two words that a boy, dying on the battlefield cries out, are either, 'mother' or 'God.'"
I stood and didn't know what to say. I looked at him and felt such pain. He continued, "I never knew I could hate so much, and now that I'm old, trying to love has become my mission."
For years we have studied hate and how it evolves into so many things. There are all kinds of ways to express our hate, and just as many ways to describe it.
Over the years, the work I have done through social justice projects has been driven by the effects of hate towards others. Being liked is something we all like. Being hated is something none of us enjoy.
Jesus' experience of hatred was real. It cost him his life. Public humiliation, being beaten, stripped of his clothing, and placed on a cross before the crowds, including his mother, was the purest example of hatred that we encounter in scripture. His appearance through all of this was something we all have encountered, either in our minds, or through the words that scripture shares.
He understands that love takes work, and that hatred comes easy. He speaks to the heart of humanity when we are reminded to "turn or cheek," "forgive your neighbor," and to "love one another."
He spends more time attempting to teach us about those who are different, and crossing the street to help those who have been hurt, and that whatever we have done for the poorest, or least of these, we have also done to Jesus.
Both, love and hatred, are part of the struggle found in the prayer we so often share, "and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil."
I'm not sure if we ever will truly be able to completely abandon hatred. For some it is what drives them, and for some, it is the mantra that they breath in and exhale.
It's amazing the number of people who I meet at the end of their life that talk more about their pain, rather than about what they have loved. I am also reminded that those who have been hurt, or wounded, by hatred, have the right to those scars. It is a reminder that at some point the overwhelming presence of Christ, who has known hatred, will heal all of us of these wounds, and that hate will one day be no more.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2018
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.