Love & Hate !
from Rev. Bruce Wood - March 2019
Published in News First ó our monthly church newsletter
Most of us will probably have a fair idea what the word love means - but what about the word hate? Both love and hate are strong words - hate being a feeling of intense dislike, and love, a sense of deep affection, directed in opposition to the feeling of hate. Both love and hate can have serious, long-lasting psychological effects both on the person experiencing hate - and on the target.
So, how do you respond to people who have hurt you, or who hate you, or abuse you? Do you hate them, and want to hurt them in return? Do you respond with as much venom as they have towards you? And - do you hold onto that hurt - and let it fester in your mind for years and years to come?
The mutual connections we share with our friends are some of the greatest gifts of life. However, with enemies itís the exact opposite. Their goals are opposed to our goals - and so, loving our enemies can be very difficult - theyíre enemies for a reason.
For example - do I have to love those who screw up peoples lives so badly, that every relationship theyíve ever had, has been a painful struggle - do I have to love people who bash others indiscriminately - do I have to forgive those, who in drunken rampages, smash and sometimes kill innocent people?
Jesus spent much of his ministry asking his friends to be radically different from the people around them. He asked them not to judge other people or condemn them, and not to take a step backward and be standoffish - but to accept them as people, with grace, and compassion - and to see past their actions, with an open mind about the future.
Jesus reminds us that God chooses to love all people, and God chooses to treat all people well - no matter who they are, or how they act. God is generous, and compassionate, and caring to everyone, whether we think they deserve it or not, and whether they are grateful or not. And we would do well to follow that example.
And that caring and compassion from God includes you and me - and, our friends, and our family - and, those we donít get along with - and, those we hate - and, those who kill other people - and, those who rip others off - and, those we may consider evil.
If we think about our lives for a moment, every one of us has caused more than our fair share of hurt and misery to other people, sometime during our lives. But God's response is not to cut us off, or to toss us aside as useless, or to condemn us. Instead, God continues to be generous, and loving, and forgiving toward us. God continues to turn the other cheek, to reach out to us with love, no matter how we may act.
Jesus says to us - love your enemies, and do good to those who persecute you - because thatís what God does with us - and it will bring a whole new dimension of freedom to your life. However, we may find some of these directions are almost impossible to follow if we read them as individuals.
And this is where community comes in. Community can surround people when they are in trouble and struggling - and can help handle the situation together - and then - it may actually be possible to live this stuff out.
If the instruction to love our enemies means do good to those who abuse others, itís not up to the victim to do so - it's up to the rest of us. Don't go asking that of the victim, because that would not be an expression of freedom. Loving those who do evil is a community responsibility, and is one of the greatest expressions of community we have. What a wonderfully powerful example community can be, when we donít give back hurt for hurt, or violence for violence, but instead, offer love and compassion in the face of hurt and violence.
How we deal with the hurts, and the pains, and the crisis in our lives - will determine much of how we live. Each of us will be known by our actions - not - by our words. We will be known by how we behave - not by what we believe.
When you treat people the way God treats you - care for people, the way God cares for you - and love people, the way God loves you - you will be a bearer of hope - a bringer of healing - and a source of grace to the people around you. And - you will also have the recipe for freedom of your mind and your spirit - a means of letting go that will bring relief and peace, to troubled minds and distressed souls.
"Love your enemies," Jesus said, "do good to those who hate you." That sort of love seems unrealistic - but I do know - and I have often seen - if achieved, it will change the world.
Peace Rev. Bruce Wood