The Hate Stops Here
Luke 6 November 11 2018
There is an Indian tribe in Ecuador called the Jivaro tribe. Each night when the children are put to bed, the parents linger by their children’s place of rest and whisper in their ear the names of all the people they must hate when they grow older. It is their tribal way of keeping the feuds and enmities alive from generation to generation.
I thought about this story as I reflected upon the killings at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, 11 dead. It also brought to mind the Oklahoma City bombings in 1995, leaving 168 dead, the shootings at the AME church in Charleston, 9 dead, shootings at gay nightclub in Orlando in 2016. 49 dead.
Inflammatory speech, whether uttered by the President or posted on social media, contributes to the radioactivity of hatred. Inflammatory speech stokes anger, fear, and resentment. Inflammatory speech divides the world into camps of us and them.
As I stood in the Lincoln Memorial Friday a week ago and read Lincoln’s words from the II Inaugural Address, “With malice toward none, with charity toward all, let us bind up our nation’s wounds, “ I realized how far we have fallen.
Pastor Eric Manning of the Emmanuel African American Episcopal church in Charleston was invited by Rabbi Jeffry Myers of the Tree of Life Jewish Synagogue to speak at the memorial service of one of the victims. The two clergy have much in common. They are the spiritual leaders of groups that have been harassed and persecuted down through the ages. “This incident” Rabbi Myers said, “like that at Emanuel, was not an attack on a particular group. It was an attack on America because it challenges our right to assemble and worship our God in the way we want. It has continued a downward spiral of hate, one that’s prevalent in all corners of the United States.”
I have lifted up a scripture for our reflections today on hate speech and hate crimes in America. It is Jesus’s words from Luke chapter 6: “Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you. The love Jesus speaks of here is not romantic love, that gushy feeling that sweeps over us when we fall head over heels. In fact this love he speaks of isn’t a feeling at all. It is an attitude which leads to an action. There is a good chance that we will never be able to change the heart of our enemies but we do have control over our hearts toward them. If we treat someone lovingly, even if we feel no real compassion for them, even if we feel contempt toward them, we are practicing kindness, and ultimately we will begin to feel kindness. The part of the equation that is most likely to change is us, not our enemies. The more that we treat those people in our lives who do not deserve compassion with compassion, the more our hearts will change towards them.
An old man was talking to a friend and said, “I’m so lucky. I don’t have an enemy in the world.” The friend said, “That’s amazing.”
“Yep,” the old man said, “I’ve outlived them all.”
“Imagine the vanity,” Augustine said, “of thinking your enmity hurts your enemy more than it does you.” Hatred does nothing to the person that we hate. It only darkens our soul. A. W. Tozer says in The Pursuit of God, “Hate eats on the soul. To get free of hatred is like being healed of cancer.” We experience so much freedom when we can set our hate aside and love people the way that Jesus loved them and see them as image bearers of God.
Leave it to Charlie Brown to express a theological and psychological truth. Charlie Brown is lying in his bed, saying to a sleeping Snoopy at his side, “Sometimes I lie awake at night and I ask,’Where have I gone wrong?’ Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night’.”
The beginning of wisdom is knowing that each of us has gone wrong. The beginning of wisdom is acknowledging that our own divided hearts contributes to the division and the heart-ache of the world. No matter how many times I stand in the pulpit, I can never point you enough to Jesus Christ and his cross. In his refusal to retaliate against those who harmed him, in his indefatigable good will toward his enemies, Jesus Christ made it possible for us to be reconciled to God and to one another. And we are in the church not because we have earned our way here. We are here because Christ reached out for us, paid a price for us, won us back to God, and broke down the walls separating us from God and one another.
The hurt and pain of the world begins in our own divided hearts. And it spreads. Oh, how it spreads from person to person, neighborhood to neighborhood, country to country. But thank God, there is an antidote.
There is a hopeful sign, a sign that hangs upon the cross, a sign which reads, “The hurt and the hate stop here.”
Here are ten affirmations emailed to me this week from my friend, Gae Chalker, who is an Episcopal priest in Hawaii. She preached here a couple of time last year.
1. I will only use thoughtful, truthful speech and refrain from any words that are a personal attack on another person.
2. I will seek to understand the concerns of those who are on the “other side of the aisle” and the people they represent.
3. I will not be afraid to speak up and express my thoughts if I believe something is not ethical.
4. I will be mindful of the weakest or least powerful in our country – the poor, the sick, the elderly, the marginalized, the alien and all those oppressed by injustice.
5. I will work to seek non-violent ways of resolving conflicts in our country and in our world.
6. I will work to provide opportunities for all Americans to receive quality education, health care, and employment that provides a living wage.
7. I will learn about how we humans are impacting all of creation and my decisions will consider the future of our environment.
Most important are the following three affirmations:
8. I will practice every day to be humble and let go of my pride.
9. I will remind myself that all human beings are God’s children, just like me.
10. I will pray every day for God’s guidance.
As I read through Gae’s list of affirmations, I thought they are not just for the leaders of our country but for all of us. Gandi said it and it is so true: “ We must be the change we want to see in the world.”