With all the scuttlebutt about NBA owners and high profile ranchers using racist language and stirring up an atmosphere of hate once again, I would like to take time to encourage us as Christians to try and institute “hate free zones” in our sanctuary and in our homes. Bishop Trimble encouraged me recently in a sermon he preached to combat hatred with love. We are called to follow Jesus’ example and to love those beyond ourselves. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus challenges the listeners (more than his close followers) to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” In John 13:34-35 Jesus tells his disciples to love one another as he loved them, and that people will know that one is a follower of Jesus if they love.
In an era where we have instant access to news, and the media latches onto a story and twists it to their own personal bent, we need to be proactive in our response and to call one another to a greater level of love. I know that I have prejudices that are challenged all the time. On the one hand I know that certain sexual practices are spoken of as evil in the Bible, and yet have become the norm in our society. I also know that to speak with one broad stroke that the practice is despised by God is many times seen as words of hatred. And so I guard my words.
Jesus welcomed sinners into his company. A tax collector who had cheated many out of money (stole from them in the name of the government) repented and promised to give back with interest what he stole. A woman who had many husbands and was shacking up with a man became one of the first evangelists to bring others to meet Jesus. A woman caught in the act of adultery was brought to Jesus for judgment and punishment, and he told her that he was not going to condemn her, and she was to go and sin no more. These eye witness reports are included in the scriptures so we can learn to not cast stones but reveal the love of God to those who are hurting. Jesus did not begin to practice the sins, but invited forgiveness.
Jesus associated with the outsiders. He touched lepers, and told the story of a good Samaritan who exemplified neighborliness. We too should reach out to those who are hurting and offer the healing power of the Holy Spirit.
When we get into a war of words, it is easy to stir up hatred once again, and to voice our opposition in our opinion. Maybe we need to reconsider how we respond. Let’s allow Jesus to reach out through us to offer some forgiveness and healing to a world filled with hatred. And in our little part of the world, let us make sure we are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit so we can love the way Jesus calls us to love, with word and deed.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son so that those who believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. God sent His son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that we might receive life through him. (Jn. 3:16-17) Let’s stop hatred in our hearts, so we can proclaim “Hate Free Zones” in our families and our Church community. There is no power greater than the power of Love.
In His Peace, Pastor Kevin